Apple Bread

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My 13 year old step daughter says: “When I grow up and get married, I am only going to have one kid.” And then adds, when I gently prod her for an explanation, “Because when you have only one, you can pay more attention to them.”

It’s a lovely winter day. Maybe not entirely lovely outside (it rains, it clears, it tries to drizzle again and through it all we are under a grumpy sky). But it’s a distinctly lovely day between the two of us. Nina’s Dad and brother are away, and we girls have the entire day, slow and luxurious. Oh the luxury of an unhurried afternoon, with nowhere to run to, with no clock to race against. The luxury of attention (here is this attention thing again) that we can lavish on the most regular of things and on each other.

We make a groceries list and go shopping. We chat in the car on the way there, we chat at the store and we chat at home as we are putting the groceries away. We decide to make apple nut bread, look for a recipe in old cooking magazines, choose the one Nina likes and pull all the ingredients out of the cabinets and the refrigerator. On the counter, we spread the things around. Nina is sifting the flour four times because she likes doing it, and chops the nuts and the apples. I melt the butter, measure out the milk, and make a strategic decision to replace orange zest with lemon zest (because we have no orange). Then we mix everything together. Nina excitedly grabs a whisk and mixes giddily, and I get to mix too because her hand gets tired. We fold the chopped apples and nuts into the dough (“Folding simply means not mixing too roughly”, I explain), pour our creation into a special dish and send it into a hot stove. 

While the bread is baking, I challenge Nina to an essay writing contest, and she hates the idea because she suspects I am going to set the subject as they do at school. However, she is more than happy to participate in a short story writing contest as soon as I reveal my complete lack of ambition to influence the choice of the subject. Essay sounds too much like school. Short story is non-threatening and devoid of the dreaded school association. So it’s been decided. We are to write for half an hour on a topic of our choosing and then share what we created. She settles down on our huge cozy couch and looks so adorably serious sitting in between bright cushions, her face aglow in the light of her laptop, that I would love to kiss her, but that would probably be a violation of the short story contest rules.

And so we write. Nina is way ahead of me with the writing, she types furiously on her laptop while I absent-mindedly drift from one idea to another. The stove beckons with its cheerful beeping, and I gratefully abandon my half empty screen. The apple bread is ready, we inspect it with admiration – it’s beautiful and sweet smelling. We put a little butter on top and let it rest while Nina finishes her story and I waste more time with mine. The moment is too good, too quiet, too peaceful to write anything. The reality is perfect, and my heart feels no need to create an alternative one.

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