Wednesday, November 26, 2008


There would be more hope if lonely people had somewhere to turn for ideas about how to spend a sociable Christmas Day. In a good world people wouldn’t have to be lonely. One of my hope projects this year is to make a list of sociable things lonely people can do on Christmas Day. I am thinking of any and all people, but I am not thinking of dating services, which is what you get when you search the Internet for ideas. . I am thinking of suggestions that would be helpful to people who need people, people who are not expecting anyone to reach out with a Christmas Day invitation. I began the project by looking for ideas for the Edmonton area, but will welcome other ideas as well.

Send ideas to and look for future postings on this topic.
Here are the first three ideas I have received.

1. Call the International Student Centre at the university and offer to host a student who has no Christmas plans.

2. Contact a travel agent to ask about short Christmas trips.

3. The Victory Christian Center in Edmonton puts on a huge Christmas Day dinner at the Shaw centre. Attend the dinner or volunteer to work at it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


What fun it is to go to a classroom where the kids have been making hope art. If you haven’t had a chance to do it, you have missed an amazing experience.

Last Thursday I visited a very active classroom. Most of the children were either 6 or 7 years old. All had met the requirements for assignment to the category known as ‘behavior disorder’. They were lively and bouncing by the time I got there, but their teacher said they had had a very peaceful morning. Why had they had such a quiet morning? Well, it seems they had been doing their hope art, giving it their full and undivided attention. It was so unusually tranquil that their teacher called the principal in to witness this uncharacteristic peace.

A memory, clear and sharp, came to me as the children introduced themselves, telling me about their hope creations. The memory was of a conversation I had a couple of years ago, when the hope art project was still an idea in its infancy. The conversation was with a teacher.

Her: “I just don’t think this project can work.”.

Me: “Why not?”.

”I know it’s a good idea and all,” she said thoughtfully, “giving the kids the challenge to think about hope and draw something. But I am thinking about some little people I have known, little people with no support from home, maybe not too smart, been through unspeakable things that you and I cannot even imagine. I think about me asking them to draw about hope, and these kids sitting there, failing again. It would be cruel to expect them to draw hope!”

I don’t recall what I said. I wanted to persuade her, so I imagine I told her that I believed it would be okay. I believed it because I have met hundreds of adults who have been through unspeakable things. Some of them are seriously considering suicide. Some of them are not too bright. And yet I would be willing to risk asking any and all of them to reflect on hope and draw something. If they seemed unable, I would help them a tiny bit.

I don’t recall exactly what she said in response, but I do recall that she wasn’t convinced by what I had said. She was thinking that it’s different for adults than for these little people. She was thinking that classrooms are different from counselling sessions. She was thinking that I probably didn’t understand what teachers face in their classrooms. I wouldn’t have disagreed with any of this.

I know a number of teachers who have struggled with the idea of making hope explicit in their classrooms. Many years ago I had another conversation with a teacher. He told me that a teacher wouldn’t be wise to ask kids to draw hope because they would all draw pictures of the latest toys in the department store. Since those toys would be unavailable to some of the children, he said it would be unfair to start such a process. At that time I had much less experience. What he said made sense to me, given the materialistic attitude of our society.

On the other hand, I have known teachers who embraced the idea of doing hope projects. They did them purposefully, anxious to see what would happen, suspending any fears they might have had about the worst possible outcomes. One of these was in command last Thursday, in the classroom where I was meeting little people who were proudly displaying pictures of rainbows and animals and such. There was no mention of toys, even though Christmas is coming. I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about the conditions that disrupt children’s behavior so badly as to render them unmanageable in a regular classroom by the age of 6 or 7. We know they are more likely to be in a behavior disorder classroom if they have been abused, neglected, or have parents with mental illness or addiction issues. Some were damaged by drugs or alcohol before they were born. We know that poverty is common in their ranks.

It was an exciting day in that classroom. They had a guest—me. The had art to show. But there was more. One of the children was proudly displaying a chicken puppet. It was on loan from the principal. It was his reward for the marvelous behavior he had shown during the peaceful art time that morning. The whole class was bursting with chickenly pride.

Many lessons were evident during my hour in that classroom. It was abundantly clear that you don’t have to be smart to understand what hope is. You don’t have to be rich, or clean, or popular, or happy. You don’t have to be an artist to draw hope. What is it about hope art that leads children to that reflective place deep into their centre core? From where does it draw the power to create a quiet lull in a behavior blizzard?

Hope art projects create many benefits. They give children the space and quiet time to think about hope, to feel hope, to do an act of hope, and then to see the mirrored image of their own hope when they show their work to others. Some of the children in this busy classroom found time to make two or three drawings. Some of the drawings will be exhibited in the children’s hope art show. Others will be displayed in their school.

Though the art can stand on its own, and sometimes it has to, there is no doubt that the best way to experience a hope art project is to see the children and the art in the same room. You get more out of it when you see what went into it. That’s when you feel the hope. That’s when you experience the separate, private and individual meaning of each and every rainbow that found its way onto a page. That’s when you know that the process of considering hope is every bit as significant as the outcome. I wish you had been there with me. If you have never visited a classroom where the children have been making hope art, you have missed an amazing experience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Ruth is growing my hair, tending it, touching it, encouraging it the way she brings along the flowers on her deck. This is Ruth of the long blonde hair, Ruth of the silky strands, Ruth the gorgeous, Ruth the sleepy riser who would rarely have time for breakfast, always have time for beauty. This is Ruth, whose father used to sit for half an hour, twisting the French braids while her mother did something else, read a book maybe.

Under Ruth’s supervision I am hosting my ever-lengthening hair, trying my best to be welcoming to the unruly tufts at the sides, the errant strands that slide across my face. “Don’t cut your bangs,” warns Ruth. And then, “You’ve been cutting your bangs, haven’t you?” Turning in frustration to a friend she says, “She cuts her hair sometimes.”

Her tone is serious. It makes me think of the people on my counselling caseload who cut their arms for reasons we cannot fathom. But I am not one of these. Cutting my hair is a natural thing. I know why I cut it, to get it out of my eyes.

Hair grows when you don’t cut it. “Your hair is growing,” my friends say in wonder, when it suddenly comes into their awareness. “You must be growing it.” They gaze in wonder. This is not the Wendy they have known.

“Ruth is growing my hair,” I say in return.

“How long is she growing it?” they ask.

“I don’t know,” I say. Then, fishing a little, “How long would you grow it?”

My baiting never catches. “How long do you want it to be?” they always ask. That’s where the conversation ends, possibly because I want it to be short. But if it isn’t short, I want it to be as long as Ruth wants it to be, and she doesn’t exactly know how long that is yet. She has no standard by which to measure it, no memory to which she would return.

My hair has been short for quite some time now. It was long in high school. It was long in university—the first degree. It was long at my wedding. Then I cut it off. I stored the old brush rollers at the back of a very dark cupboard. Gradually my brain recovered from the dulling effects of the piercing of their picks and bristles through my scalp on all those sleepless Sunday nights. I gave the electric rollers to a garage sale. They never really worked as well as the brush rollers. I stored the old hooded hair dryer under the basement stairs, in case I ever had a daughter to need it some day. It has been happy there for many a decade.

A little attention is a powerful thing. Ruth was watching my hair. I was growing it. There was a wedding in our family last summer. “Ruth,” I said, “maybe you could do my hair.” She could hardly refuse, now that there was hair to do. I sat on a chair in my mother’s kitchen while she stood behind me, comb in hand, curling iron blazing. My ears shrank in terror. “Sorry Mom,” she said. “You’ll have to trust me.”

I trusted her. “I’ll have to spray it,” she said. What could I do at that point? I swallowed my environmental concerns, screwed my eyes shut and pinched my nose. I remembered all the times I sat in my mother’s kitchen while Mom stood behind me, doing my hair. They were good memories.

“Ruth and I are growing my hair.” That’s what I almost wrote in the first draft of the annual Christmas letter. Then I deleted it. Something told me it would bring a cry of frustration from Ruth, and maybe she’d tell me to cut it.

Okay, I confess that it is actually me who is growing this hair, growing it for Ruth, and maybe even a bit for me. Her dad used to like it long, though he never pressured me to keep it that way. He’s a practical man. But he still might like it long.

I can always cut it off, I tell myself, or, even better, get somebody else to cut it. And, as long as I don’t have to spend another Sunday night lying awake on brush rollers, I think I’ll just celebrate this time of noticing that I am still capable of change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Five years have passed since the day when I impulsively decided to take a step towards being recognized as a storyteller—an official storyteller. I was already the unofficial kind. These days I happily say that my hobby is storytelling. And as I look back I can see, to my surprise, that with the help of many others, I have actually acquired a repertoire of 20 stories, told on storytellers’ stages, stand-alone stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Wonders never cease! Here, listed under the year in which each was added to the repertoire, is the list of stories

The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate by Margaret Many
A man and his mother set out on a voyage to find the sea.

The Berlin Wall by Wendy Edey
Back in the 1960’s, when we were practicing for the end of the world, we never imagined what might be happening in 1989.

Put On Your Own Mask First by Wendy Edey
They give you a lot of advice on airplanes. Some of it is more valuable that you think.

My Financial Career by Stephen Leacock
A bank is a scary place when you’re “rattled”.

Good-by Grandma by ray Bradbury
Grandma organizes the family for her final exit.

The Cat Who lived A Million Times by Hyakumankai Ikita Neko
Sometimes it takes a million tries to learn the most important lesson.

The Wedding of Dame Ragnell, A Tale Of King Arthur
King Arthur searches the land to find out what women want.

The Street That Got Mislaid by Patrick Waddington
Who could imagine that a treasure lay behind that ordinary-looking brick wall?

Felicity’s Fortune by Wendy Edey
We know that a chicken was found in Dawson Park. What we wonder is how she got there.

Comb Concert by Wendy Edey
This is a story about Kathryn Tucker Windham, Selma Alabama and the transformative power of audacious hope.

Miracles and Wonders by Wendy Edey
Mother couldn’t perform miracles, but she could do wonders. When she seemed the most helpless, she showed us all what a simple hope-opotamus could do.

The Words the cat took by Wendy Edey
59,995 words is a lot to lose in a single night. On the day after the big stroke Harry still had five good words, and a message he wanted to deliver.

I Could Use Some Help Up Here by Wendy Edey
Even a damsel in distress will try just about anything before she admits she can’t do it on her own.

Lawrence Gives A Hope Talk by Wendy Edey
Only a desperate person would seek public speaking advice from somebody who would rather eat carpenters’ tools than make a speech.

Knitters by Wendy Edey
“Murdering her is not a good idea,” he said. “We’ll send her to Gramma for knitting lessons.”

Mr. Andrews by E.M. Forster
A Christian and a Muslim meet on their way to Heaven. This tale is as relevant today as it was when Forster penned it in 1914.

Stream, Wind, Fire (a Sufi tale)
A stream tries to hold its shape while crossing the desert.

Burnout and Rekindling by Wendy Edey
How do you inspire a group of social workers after a presentation that tanked, sank and went all the way down the toilet?

The French Invention by Wendy Edey
Louis Braille made it possible for blind people to read and write. All he needed was support from the school for the blind. But few people know how long it took for Louis to get any respect.

Learning To Play Jacks by Wendy Edey
At last I had found a game I could win. It was a story that seemed too good to be true.

Singing Country Music by Wendy Edey
Everything I ever needed to know about moonshine I learned before the age of six. I learned it while sitting on the edge of the bed with my sister, singing country music.

How High’s The Water by Wendy Edey
If the North Saskatchewan River could talk it would have some stories to tell. It would tell about the floods that changed its banks forever, and the people who had to change their plans.

Little Mary Ann (adapted from a tale by Donna Lively)
Jane thinks it would be just about impossible to be as good as little Mary Ann.

The Woman With Many Names by Wendy Edey
In the 19th century pipe organs were springing up in American churches. There was a demand for American hymns, and there were many writers to meet that demand. This is the story of the amazing life of one writer, Fanny Crosby.

The Sword Of Wood (a folk tale adapted by Doug Lipman
A King sets out in peasant’s clothing on a quest to understand the people of his kingdom.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Hopeful people are better copers. That’s what the research says. They heal more quickly, deal with problems more creatively, demonstrate more tolerance for uncertainty and pain. Regardless of the circumstances, hope is most certainly influenced by the things we hear from others. That’s what the research says. It says we are susceptible to hope.

Gramma is susceptible to hope. I think of this when I visit her. Though she speaks with conviction and clarity, she is not always an easy woman to understand.

As I understand it, there are two things Gramma would like. She would like to die suddenly and conclusively of a heart attack. Any time would do. Now would be fine with her. She would also like to resume her active and happy life after recovering quickly and fully from the hip fracture that sent her to surgery. Though apparently in conflict, these two wishes dwell side by side in Gramma’s conscious awareness. The slightest shift will turn her attention from one to the other. “Gramma is susceptible to hope,” I tell myself when I am with her. “Make sure you help her to see it.”

A test of hope arrives while I am visiting. In comes the physio team. This is the team that gets Gramma moving. Though she wants more than anything else to get moving, she has been anticipating their arrival with a sense of impending doom.

Gramma’s mind is on the pain. Come to think of it, it’s even more than that. Her mind’s on the hope-sucking implications of the pain. She has been saying, “I shouldn’t be in this much pain. They tried to cut back the medication. It’s been six days. I shouldn’t be in this much pain!”

Gramma does everything she can to help the physio team get her moving. The pain is unspeakable. She tries to make them hear it. They are kind, and I know they hear what she is saying. To her they say, “You’re doing better.”

This convinces her that they haven’t heard her. She says, “It’s not better!” They don’t argue. They know she’s talking about the pain.

The physio team is about to leave. They are going to leave now, taking Gramma’s hope out with them. When they are gone there will be only the memory of Gramma saying, “It’s not better!” I picture the remains of the day. When her son comes she will say, “It is not better!” To her granddaughter she will say, “It’s not better!” Soon the whole family will be saying, “Gramma’s not better!” It will be the truth.

But it won’t be the whole truth, only the truth without the hope. I was sure I had heard them say something that should have brought hope, something that would have brought hope if only they’d said more about it. “Wait,” I cry to the retreating physio team. “Gramma says she isn’t better because of the pain, which I know you have heard and I know you are dealing with in terms of medication. But I heard you say that she is better. What did you mean by that? Could you tell us why you said that?”

Back comes the team. They tell us that Gramma is stronger today then she was yesterday. They show us what they mean. She has lifted her foot higher, stretched it farther. Then they go back a few days and remind us of what Gramma cold do a few days ago—much less.

“She is stronger you say?” I repeat. Then I ask if it is normal to have this pain.

They explain that pain is extremely variable, that it is affected by bone density, that some medications work better for some patients, that we just have to experiment with medications. They get the doctor and we all have a chat about the pain. Gramma is in control now. I tell them what Gramma has told me about the medications, she enthusiastically backs up what I say she said. A new pain plan is made.

When they are gone Gramma is ready to take a tour of the hospital in her wheelchair. The nurse asks about the pain and she says it is a little better now. As we wait for the elevator she says, “It’s so much better if somebody is here to ask questions when they come.”

Now she is chatting in the elevator. Things are factually no different then they were ten minutes earlier, but Gramma is visibly different. The part of her that wants a heart attack has receded into the background. She is different because the physio team came back and put the hope in the room instead of taking it away with them.

It is one of those times when I know beyond all doubt that it matters to be a hope specialist. There is still so much to teach so many about the need to pay careful attention to hope when you talk to vulnerable people. There is so much to teach about the need to make sure hope is visible before you leave the room. It is my day off, but it seems that I have been at work anyway. How could I not be?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


November 12 is different for me this year—different because I am still remembering November 11. For as long as I can remember I have spent November 11 doing what the media have asked me to do—remembering the sacrifices of soldiers and their families, gratefully appreciating my own personal freedoms. What I did on past Novembers 12 I frankly have no idea.
But today I am remembering yesterday—not because I reconnected with the soldiers and the wars, though certainly I did do this—but because I also held Baby Matty, 2 days old, weighing in at 6 pounds 10 ounces. What I noticed as I cradled her was that I felt hopeful, hopeful for the future. It felt strange. Hope is something I do not usually feel on November 11. Though I don’t dispute the importance of remembering the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families, I try hard to hope there will be no more wars. While others see this hope on November 11, I have yet to be convinced that remembering past wars helps us prevent future wars. Holding Matty, for whom anything is currently possible, I really did wonder, if more of us held more babies, came closer to the perfect hope of an unfolding life at its very beginning, would we be more motivated to work harder to prevent the wars that cause so much pain?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Great nephew Isaac was born on Saturday
Great Niece Matty was born on Sunday.
A great weekend all round
To be a great aunt.

There were great aunts when I was a kid,
And they were okay I guess,
But great aunts were older and wrinklier back then.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I am pondering life’s mysteries—the big ones—like, Why does the sun shine? And Why is it harder to launch a kite on a windy day than a zillion-ton airplane in the calm? And, get ready for the biggest one of all, Why do dogs roll in stuff?
Pirate escaped yesterday. I suppose it was my fault really. I didn’t check to see if all the gates were closed. I simply let him out when he asked. It was such a sunny day, the kind of day when pirate can pass two happy hours in the yard without ever calling on me for anything. So out he went, and that was that. Silence was golden.
Maybe an hour had passed when two big dogs strolled by, dragging their person behind them. The neighbourhood went into an uproar. There were deep wolfish barks from across the street. There were yelpish barks from down the street. Pirate wasn’t barking. I was so proud of him for that! Well, on second thought … How much can a dog actually change in an hour?
Out I went, calling pirate’s name. No response. He’s a good dog. It was probably my mistake. No response could mean that perhaps I had let him in half an hour ago and simply forgotten about it. It has happened before. I checked the living room, the couch, the love seat, both rocking chairs. I checked the family room, the love seat and both rocking chairs. I checked our bedroom, the study, the spare room, Mark’s place. I checked them all again.
I sighed heavily. On went my shoes. On went my coat. Out went I, calling Pirate’s name.
Pirate came when I called him. I had to admit that he really is a good dog. He wanted to be at home. A smarter dog might have re-entered through the back gate which stood wide open, instead of marching along the front walk to the front gate, waiting for me to open it and welcome him home. But I did acknowledge that he was a good dog. Then we hurried inside, because it sure did smell bad out there.
We hadn’t been in the house for more than a second when the inside began to smell a bit like the outside. Bad smells can come in through an open door. I reached down to give Pirate a pat.
There are a lot of things I can’t say for sure. But one thing is certain. Somewhere in the neighbourhood there is a pile of poop that is a lot flatter than it was at this time yesterday.
I don’t think it would be honest to say that Pirate was grateful for all that I did for him, for the free shampoo and cream rinse and the time under the hairdryer, for the removal and washing of his collar, for scraping it out from inside his ears, under his chin, in the curve of his long bushy tail, lathering the flat of his back. In fact, though I confess that I don’t always understand exactly what Pirate is saying, I believe he may have told me that he’d do it all again if he had the chance, which still leaves me wondering—WHY DO DOGS ROLL IN STUFF????

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Last Friday night Susan and her friends dressed up as Waldos and Wendas from the "Where's Waldo" books. There were 3 Waldos and 4 Wendas (Waldo's female friend) and 1 Odlaw (the barely known evil Waldo). They painted striped shirts, sewed red and white hats, and bought cheap glasses. I never saw them, but I heard about it from Susan. It was Halloween. Dressing up is a tradition for Susan and her friends. One year they went as five bowling pins! I, in contrast, dressed up as Wendy. It’s what I do every year on Halloween—a tradition, you might say.
Susan says it’s fun to dress up, and even more fun to have a photo session with your friends before you leave for the party. That’s the jolly time, the optimistic time, the hour when you feel connected yet certain of your uniqueness. If there are going to be other Waldos at the party, you don’t yet know it.
Those to whom I am connected, in contrast, tend not to photograph me on Halloween. Admittedly there’s not much to photograph, seeing as how I look like the same Wendy you’d photograph any other day, except for wedding days when there tend to be a lot of photos of me dressed up, and Christmas mornings when the focus is on the gift I am holding not the outfit I am wearing. When I was a kid I used to dress up as a witch. I wore an old black cape and a pointy hat my mother made of cardboard and crepe paper. The hat had an elastic that hurt my chin. One year I wore the hat without the elastic. It was windy that year. Windy years and calm, I believe I was always a witch. I don’t believe there are any photos to prove it. I liked being a witch. What else can I say?
There is, however, one photograph of me on Halloween. I am an adult in the photograph. My mother was not around to make me a pointy hat, and hat-making has never been a talent of mine, so David made me a hat. It was a memorable evening. I went as a sunflower. I don’t recall the party, but I do remember putting on the costume and feeling like—like—like a sunflower, bright and perky, an unusual situation for a sunflower on Halloween in Edmonton, just about as unusual as Wendy in a costume.
Susan is my niece. She probably wouldn’t have written to me had I not begged her to do so. She used to write to me when she was travelling and I have found that life gets a little bit boring without her letters. The subject of her letter (because it was an email it had a subject) was: An Update On Susan’s Life In Edmonton. She would not likely have mentioned the Waldo costumes, were it not for the fact that she was finding it a struggle to think of interesting things to tell me about her everyday life—going to work, evening classes etc. The costumes were something a little different, a little more interesting. It got me to wondering how much Susan knows about my daily life. Probably very little. If she were to ask what I’d been up to lately, I’d probably say Not much. Then I’d think up the only extraordinary thing that’s happened to me in the past month and tell her about it. The rest of the details I would leave for her to take for granted.
I am told that archaeologists develop a passion for knowing the ordinary details of lives lived in the past. They dig and scrape and survey and catalog in a frenzied attempt to figure out what people ate for breakfast, how they cooked it, and why their neighbours a hundred miles away ate something different. Most of the details are fashioned through informed speculation which may, or may not be well-informed. I wonder how many of these same archaeologists go home after a hard day’s work, never stopping to notice the details of their own daily lives, never quite taking the time to catalog them for the educational benefit of future archaeologists. The relative interestingness of current detail is subject to many variables, distance and familiarity being two.
Come to think of it, Halloween is not the only event which is under represented in our photo albums. I wonder if there is a single picture of me cooking supper, or doing the dishes, or shopping for groceries, or getting on the bus at Corona Station. Future photo lookers will undoubtedly conclude that I opened a lot of presents and took a lot of vacations. Will they think I had a full-time cook? And if they deduce that routine events were seldom photographed, how will they explain the presence of only one sunflower photo? Will they surmise that I probably dressed up as a sunflower on a regular basis, thereby rendering the event unworthy of further recognition?
After so many hours of listening while sad people tell me what they believe to be the interesting parts of their life stories, I think I am developing an appreciation for both the exceptional and the normal. We need the normal to keep us grounded, to give us security. We need the exceptional to shake us up occasionally, to change our position in life. Exceptional things throw us off balance and increase our core strength. It is the core strength that gives us the ability to re-establish our balance. Too bad we fall into the trap of thinking that the normal is boring.
I myself am pretty attached to normal, though I admit to an occasional rash decision based on the need to break the pattern. Had I received Susan’s letter last week, I likely would have vowed to dress up on some future Halloween, not because I like dressing up, not even because that sunflower costume was comfortable. Heaven knows I can still remember sweating like a sprinkler under the brown polyester centre while trying to relieve the future scalp blisters by fiddling with the poky petal-wires. But when I read Susan’s letter I immediately felt the connectedness, that moment of fun when you and your friends get to laughing and taking pictures.
How grateful am I that another letter, one that arrived on Halloween, threw me off balance, thereby saving me from the tyranny of the costume Susan’s letter would undoubtedly have inspired! The letter came from Linda. It was a thank-you letter. In farewell it said: Happy Halloween Wendy, the good witch of North Riverdale! I only met Linda recently. She doesn’t know I used to be a witch. She doesn’t even know about my brief stint as a sunflower! She probably thinks I never dress up on Halloween. But when I read that letter I felt really connected. And just for a minute I felt like a kid again, pointy hat and all, counting up the candy.

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?