Saturday, November 01, 2008


I made buns this morning, soft dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls fragrant and sweet. David made fried bread with some of the dough and served it hot with cheese for me to nibble while I formed the cinnamon buns. It was just like old times.
I started baking buns 35 years ago to please my new husband. I used his mother’s recipe. His mother was kind of thrilled and she kept on baking them too. It wasn’t a competition. She seemed constantly to be changing up the ingredients with some brown flour, less sugar, and healthy additions of bran or Sunny Boy porridge. My buns, in contrast, didn’t change much. Some brown flour did creep in during one health phase, but mostly we liked them the way they were. For her it was a win-win situation. It was flattering that I made them the old way, and she didn’t have to be bored to tears.
I haven’t made buns in a few years. I wanted to, but things got complicated. My mom got sick and my back got bad and my shoulder flared up with tendonitis. Then we started going to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to buy bread from Baker Bill or Cinnamon Girl. We lived fine without my buns, no doubt about that.
But this morning was one of those Saturdays when we didn’t have to go anywhere and my back didn’t hurt and my shoulder was fine. I remembered the time the TV repairman came just as I was packaging up cinnamon buns I’d promised to a bake sale. “Oh,” he cried, “It smells wonderful in here!”
Like I said, they were all packaged up for the bake sale, so, instead of unpackaging them and giving the money to the bake sale, I ignored his compliments, his hopeful hints. I’m still regretting that.
I remembered all the Saturday mornings when I’d call the kids from their date with Saturday morning cartoons. Up from the basement they’d come. Each would take a small glass pan, grease it with margarine, lift a sizable lump of dough, and start the process of creating bun people. Out of the cupboard would come the raisins, the walnuts, the chocolate chips (Bun people need a lot of buttons and facial decoration). Down the hatch would go copious quantities of raisins, nuts and chocolate chips (growing bakers need sustenance for the work ahead). Out of the oven would come the bun people, adorned with squishy chocolate melt and singed raisins. Down the hatch would go the lot.
This morning, as I kneaded the dough, recalling the perfect stretch and give between my hands, punching and pressing with mounting glee, I imagined the scene in two hours or so. Out would come the cinnamon buns, sweet and warm and smelling like Heaven itself. Out would come Mark, opening the door of his upstairs apartment, coffee cup in hand, calling “Something smells good down here!”
He would remember his childhood! I would glow. I would bow. Everything would be perfect!
And this is how it happened. Out came the cinnamon buns sweet and warm and smelling like Heaven itself. Out came Mark, coffee cup in hand from his upstairs apartment. “Something smells good down here,” he called. In the sound of his voice I knew that something was wrong. But what was wrong? What could be wrong? I pondered the question as he started down the stairs.
In only a moment I had the answer. Mark was carrying more than just his coffee cup. Both his hands were full. He and Tracy had made cinnamon buns. He was bringing them for breakfast.
“How terrible!” I cried in anguish. “To have waited so long and then have two lots in one day! How terrible!”
But Mark was having none of it as he sat at the table, eating a bun he had brought. “They're not the same," he said. "Ours have raisins. How can it possibly be terrible,” he asked, “to have a few extra cinnamon buns?”
And so, as I lick my lips, awed to observe the passage of things among the generations, I am left wondering: How can it possibly be terrible?

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