The Baker

When my mother wasn't well, I took over her car so that I could go back and forth to where she was in NJ and, later, the Bronx.  I got the cheapest local parking spot about 10 blocks away.  The walk to the garage took me past a funny, old-fashioned-feeling French bakery that, I discovered, sold the perfect small chocolate-chip cookie for eating all of the feelings I was having about my mom's illness.  One cookie was just enough to do the emotional work I needed a chocolate chip cookie to do, but not so much that I tipped over into gluttony or guilt. 

I loved the man who most often served me.  We were both kind of stiff and spoke as little as possible; he was french and I was always wanting to speak french to him and simultaneously too embarrassed.  As much as the cookie, he was part of the comfort I found stopping in there on my way to or from the hospital or hospice; the neighborly familiarity of being recognized but not really known. 

He died, that man.  I read it in the newsletter of the other local bakery (where I prefer the bread but dislike the cookies) and out-loud said, loudly, "no!"  I know that a large measure of the sadness I'm feeling about him is really sadness about my mom, but it's also true that I will miss HIM, am sad to know I won't get to see him again, sorry to have taken those oddly pleasurable interactions for granted. 

I am newly grateful to live in a community where we see each other and recognize our neighbors even if we don't often get to know them very well; a kind of extended family in the absence of actual kin.