Driving past the shopping center, Jack wondered, “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” I answered.
“Wanna take a right?” he responded with a knowing smile. Great Harvest Bakery was open. It was a place we frequented together during my summers off, me and my kids. They offered free slices of bread – huge ones – and because I was frugal and always in search of free activities for my kids, the bakery was high on our list. Rarely would I actually purchase a loaf of bread, and Jerome never cared. Free slices? For sure!
Jerome worked the counter at the bakery. Every week during the summer we would stop at the bakery and Abby, Jack, and Sam would get a huge slice of fresh bread slathered with butter and sometimes honey. Jerome always recognized us and chatted us up. He would check in with each of the kids and show us the variety of breads from which we could choose our colossal samples. Our bakery visits were always 20-30 minutes, after which we would all pile back into the car and devour our slices.
We had been visiting Great Harvest Bakery forever. Sometimes there would be other employees working the counter, but Jerome was hands-down our favorite. As the kids grew up, our bakery visits dwindled. Now, since Jack was nineteen and away at college, this would be a special treat. “Let’s see what Jerome’s been up to,” Jack said.
“It’s Saturday, and I bet he only works weekdays,” I answered.
“Yeah, you’re probably right, “Jack said as we exited the car, but I was mistaken. Entering the bakery, we were delighted to see Jerome, like a sentry, standing there at the counter. His hair had grayed, but otherwise he looked just the same.
Jack and I both exclaimed, “Jerome!” Smiling, Jerome greeted us and asked how we’d been. Did he really recognize us? Maybe, but because this bakery is so popular, Jerome has to be somewhat of a local celebrity. Nonetheless, Jack and I liked to believe that he remembered our faces. Reminiscing over twelve or so summers visiting this bakery, I was struck once again with overwhelming love for my kids.
Every summer, once a week…..strolling in to escape the heat, to kill time, to fill our bellies, to save money, whatever the reason. I wish I had a video snippet of each of those visits to review right now, watching each of my precious children grow, hearing their sweet voices, seeing their darling smiles. The only phrase I can think of is ‘my heart is full’, but I’m not sure that covers it.
I don’t know how I deserve this gift of motherhood, in fact, I’m certain that I don’t. I never could have imagined, when this journey began twenty-two years ago, the staggering range of emotions that would accompany it. For now, I will sit with my joy and gratitude. And I will savor my bread.