My father was a baker. When I was little I’d get to visit him at the bakery where they knew me by name. Wall to wall display cases were stuffed full of treats, all shapes and sizes. I’d sample my favorites including the cookies shaped like leaves. The green and pink leaves with a thin layer of fudge sandwiched in the center.
My dad worked bizarre nighttime hours. He slept through most of the day and went to work around midnight. He would make his way home around 5am and wasn’t ready for sleep just yet. Often times he would start a slow cooking meal for dinner that evening. Every now and then he would make a big breakfast. Usually pancakes made with club soda instead of water because it made them light and fluffy with a slight crunch on the outer edge. Other times it was turnovers with fresh fruit baked inside.
I recall waking around 6am and running to my bedroom door to peer under the bottom. That’s how I knew if my father was still awake. From this position I could see straight down the hallway to his chair at the dining room table, right at the head. He would be seated and reading the day’s newspaper while sipping on coffee. I would run down the narrow hallway and jump into his arms, greeting the morning with a bear hug.
I could always tell what my father had been up to based on the scent in the air. Sometimes I could guess what was for dinner or if there was a plate of my favorite pancakes shaped like silver dollars waiting to be devoured. Then I’d sneak into the kitchen to see what types of ingredients he brought home from the bakery to teach me a new recipe or technique.
I mastered cake baking and we were working on the decorating part. My roses were atrocious. Even when I couldn’t grasp the how-to of roses my dad was so very patient, and often ended up making them for me, never taking the credit. It was our secret.
Sundays were famous at home. The moment my eyes popped open and my nose adjusted to being awake so early, I could smell the tomato sauce without fail. It was so exciting to discover what meat accompanied my preferred dish. Were there meatballs, the really big ones? Maybe it was sausage this week, huge links? Oh, it could be the bits of pork he liked to add with the bone! Sometimes, if we were really lucky he’d do a combination of all three and make a delicious antipasto.
Even at 6am I’d give my dad that look. The one that asked if he brought home a fresh loaf of rye bread. And for Sunday breakfast, I filled a bowl with Sunday gravy and dip the spongy bread in. Several slices of bread and butter later, there was little evidence of red left in that bowl. It had been sopped up and satisfied my early morning craving.
We’d spend this time together, my dad and I, for a few hours. He would show signs of needing sleep and tell me to have a good day. I would tell him to have a good sleep and throw out a, “See you at dinner!”
Now it’s my three sons who get to lick the cake batter bowls on baking day. The evidence is quite clear, it rarely occurs without my late father’s watchful eye.
This post was written in participation with The Red Dress Club memoir writing prompt: Memory & Reflection.