Sunday, December 19, 2010

Give Us This Day

This may look like a loaf of bread, but it's not. It's a gift. A delicious, homemade, still-warm-from-the-oven gift. Someone couldn't wait to taste it and nipped an end piece the minute it touched a flat surface in the kitchen. Okay, it was me, but I live with another crust lover. If I don't nick one for myself my guy will eat both.

My next door neighbor first made and brought over this bread for us on the day we moved into this house, and has made a loaf as a Christmas gift every year since. It's a simple but lovely gesture, one I return usually by baking a pie or a strudel for her and her family, although this year I might do a basket of cookies (I can never decide on one thing and stick to it; I'm too restless a baker.)

Exchanging gifts of food is really old-fashioned. Today no one has time to bake; it's certainly easier to send a basket of stuff from a catalog or pick up something from the bakery in town. My neighbor and I are both insanely busy women, and rarely have time to do more than chat for a minute now and then, and usually about car pooling the kids. This year has been particularly hectic; I can count the number of times we've talked on one hand. I certainly never expect the gift of her bread, just as I know she never expects anything from me.

We're very different people,my neighbor and me -- different backgrounds, jobs, schedules, hobbies, friends and so forth. But we live side-by-side; our kids go to the same schools. We share tools and repair tips, rescue stray mail and packages, and keep an eye out for any wild critters that cross our properties (we even caught our neighbor's horse when he got loose one New Year's Day.) When one family goes out of town, the other watches their house, and when the rare emergency happens, we're there for each other with whatever is needed. I couldn't ask for better neighbors.

So when I look at this loaf of bread, I don't see something simple or humble. I see a gift I'm given every day, living in my neighborhood and knowing this family. I see friendship, and trust, and community. I see all the days I've been here, and look forward to the times to come.

Every time you stop in here and talk about books and writing and share some laughs with me, you do the same thing as my neighbor. You give me a little part of your day, your words, your thoughts. You talk about the books you love, the stories you wrestle and the hopes and dreams you hang onto. You are my colleagues and readers, my virtual neighbors, and I'm sure all very busy with lives of your own, and still you make time for me. I think that may be the greatest gift you can give anyone.

Tomorrow I think I'll make soup to go with the bread. Or maybe a stew. The other wonderful thing about this kind of gift are all the possibilities that go with it.

14 comments:

  1. Now I'm homesick for my neighbor... except she's the one who left, off to Brazil for two years... still year and a half to go, and I wish it was over already.

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  2. You set a lovely table. ;)

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  3. Awww, that's really sweet. I'm glad you have such wonderful neighbors! I agree with your about our blogging buddies. The warmth and generosity of everyone is a wonderful gift every time I sign on blogger.

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  4. It's so reassuring to know that someone still understands. I'm an avid baker - and soupmaker - and when I give someone a gift of food that came from my kitchen, it's more than "cookies" or "cupcakes." It's an expression of love. In the most simplest sense, I'm saying that they're so important to me that I want them to be saved from both physical and emotional starvation. It's like edible love.

    And now I want to go bake bread.

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  5. I was reading something about how the French approach to food is community, togetherness, etc., whereas most Americans think of food in terms of calories, fat, etc. I like the French approach better. Here's to breaking bread!

    Speaking of which, it is That Time of Year to make mini loaves of cranberry bread for everybody around me.

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  6. my favortie gifts have always been home food. Sadly I tend to burn stuff no matter how careful I am. I have gotten a little better over this last year.

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  7. What a nice post : )

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  8. I haven't been a very good neighbor here for the last couple of year. I breeze through the RSS reader scanning all the blogs I love and a few I'm not sure why I keep checking. While the reader is a nice way to catch up quickly, I miss the beautiful and creative blog layouts and commenting is less spontaneous.

    I do wish you and yours health and prosperity in the New Year and a very Merry Christmas.

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  9. I haven't made bread in a long time. Soup - an old fashioned vegetable soup is wonderful this time of year with a loaf of fresh baked bread or a thick beef stew. I think I'll drag out my old cook books and see what I can come up with.

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  10. We had a potluck Holiday dinner at a friend's house tonight. Everyone brought food and exchanged recipes and told stories. Food and community go together.

    Happy Holidays to you and, after tomorrow, the day's get longer and the nights get shorter.

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  11. I just learned to make bread this year and have been giving loaves to everyone special--the schoolbus driver, my kids' teachers, etc. Thanks for reminding me about the great neighbors I have. I'll bake some for them, too.

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  12. This is such an insightful and thoughtful post, Lynn! I have never made bread before, so this was really interesting to me.

    Our next-door neighbor always makes homemade peanut brittle and cheese straws for us. :) So I know what you mean...their gifts mean a lot to us, and not just because they are edible and delish!

    ~TRA

    http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

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  13. Keita Haruka12:03 PM

    Ah, soup with home made bread. :-) It makes me nostalgic for my grandmother's kitchen. Home made bread, home made soup, even home made butter. I look forward to the day when my partner and I can continue the tradition. Although...he'll make the soup, and I'll do the baking. And we'll have to make do without the farm butter. :p

    I'm so glad to see that people over on your side of the ocean still do that. :D

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  14. That's lovely! And such a nice thing to say about us all. It seems funny to me, that I can feel like I have friends, when if I was to pass you on the street I wouldn't know you. And yet, each day I come here to see what you have to say, and am disapointed if you are not here. Just another wonder of the internet and human nature, I suppose.

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