A Loaf of Bread
‘I’ll have the one with the sesame seeds,’ I say pointing to the shelves of loaves, lined up like newborns in a maternity ward. The shop is cozy, a cubby-house of crispy sourdough, dark rye and milky coffee.
Amir takes a sheet of translucent tissue paper and picks up a loaf using it as a kind of glove. He is darkly Mediterranean, boyish, Turkish maybe. Amir? Could he be Israeli? He does not hide that he likes me, always overly keen to serve me, to ask me how I am. He has no idea how old I am. Today I’m sure my age shows.
I had maybe three hours sleep last night, woken by the retching sounds that came from the toilet as Jamie spewed up Thai food every hour or so. I had stumbled towards the gagging, then stood there helplessly. It is not easy to mother a nineteen-year old. When she was still mine, I’d have held her hair out of her face, clucked words of comfort, patted her back. She had looked up at me in between retches, ‘Can you please not watch me?’ I’d skulked back to bed. Sleepless for the rest of the night.
Amir puts the loaf in a brown paper bag.
‘Do you need a bag?’ he smiles.
‘No, no plastic, the paper bag is fine.’ I beam back at him and he winks at me. This slight interaction with a man of Middle-Eastern appearance who is in his early thirties is one of those small guilt-free pleasures like finding a $2 coin in the pocket of your jeans, or someone exiting their parking spot just as you pull up.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?
I hold the bread against my body, a swaddle of sustenance. It is deliciously warm and the wind on this spring morning is having an autumn memory. The Rabbi’s wife walks by, pushing a pram with one of her innumerable grandchildren, flanked by two pre-schoolers, one with payot and yarmulke, the other with long plaits. We exchange niceties. She motions to the bread I’m holding and asks if the bread at the new shop is any good. I tell her it’s the best, defaulting into unnecessary superlatives as if overcompensating for my failure to ever show my face in her husband’s synagogue. The best? I wince at myself. Am I twelve or what?
She wishes me a Shana Tova. I do the same.
Down on the beach, I cuddle the bread on my baby-holding hip. I always wondered about that – how naturally it felt to hold a child on the left when I am right handed. I remember once reading that Nature designs it that way so women can multi-task, hold the baby while leaving their dominant hand free. It has been nearly fourteen years since that hip was gainfully employed, yet it still remembers. That soft spot. That ache.
I take the long scenic walk home, not rushing as I might have back when having a sick child at home stripped me down to the purpose of my presence, the very bones of my being. When there was nowhere else I could possibly be, no place I was needed more than sitting vigil, making soup, tending the temperature.
I gaze out at the ocean and sigh, before turning back.
I have done my motherly duty. I have brought her bread. From the best shop. When she surfaces from the fever and wretchedness of this bug, there it will be. The fresh bread with the sesame seeds Amir took off the shelf this morning, wink and all. When there is colour back in her cheeks, I will slice it, toast it, boil the kettle and bring her Vegemite toast and weak black tea with honey on a tray in bed. Shrugged from her life as a neurotic nuisance, banished from all tenderness, I can still be her mother.
I bring this warm loaf to my heart. I hug it and sniff it, and close my eyes into its goodness. I carry it enfolded in my embrace all the way home.
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