Early Memories of Baking


Let’s plumb the depths. Let’s dig in to the strata of memory. What gems have formed in the pressure of the self? What evidence of origin and truth can we find in the outlines of childhood? What waters can wash away the dust and erode the hard places so I can know what to do with myself?

I was born a baker. I don’t know how I can deny it or pretend it’s not true, even though it’s a new hobby. Or a new recovery of something hidden deep. It’s like a new love that surprises and is predictable at the same time. How long do you have to do something for it to become part of you? If reunited with a love long forgotten do you become yourself again or do you become something completely new?

This is in praise of deep play. On the surface it looks like obsession, dangerous fixation, illogical devotion. But would you tell a child lost in worlds of their own design to stop working so hard? It is effortless, but on the surface it looks like unbearable exertion. It is engaging while appearing endlessly dull and repetitive to the outside. It is deliberately restful while keeping you from sleep with yearning thoughts.

The embarrassing story my parents would tell here about me is when I would put on an apron, stuff the pockets with every wooden spoon and spatula in the house, and declare I was ready to make cookies.

The more interesting story to me now is a memory of bread held in the air, grape juice in a glass, and a cyclical, “This is my body.” Then bread broken, satisfyingly firm and soft, and passed. And a whisper of a memory about someone in the congregation making the weekly Sunday bread.

Then, a sunny fellowship hall, smelling of coffee, and old men sitting and talking. An impression of neighborliness. To this day the smell of coffee makes me think of that room with that sun with those men.

The most rewarding activities of adulthood are deeply tied to the cares and curiosities of childhood. How do I find my way home? How do I create a life that re-seeds the wisdom and values given to me? The wonders of taste, touch, and body. The mysteries of story, word, and song. Dangerous to lose, essential to find again, especially during tax season.

About Kevin McGillivray

Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, writer, and teacher from Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, mindfulness, code, and tea.

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