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Since I have such an early start to my day now (and nothing else in particular to do), I’ve decided to take on a new hobby…bread making.

My grandma raised me from the time I was an infant, and my memories of her revolve almost entirely around some sort of bread. Challah loaves, sourdough, scones, cinnamon raisin. Cranberry muffins, biscuits, flatbread, honey wheat. There was never a meal without bread and hardly a conversation.

My grandma’s name is Ettie (I call her Nonnie), and I’ve always adored her. I still go back and visit at least 3 times a year, but the trip to Sawyer, North Dakota from Williamsburg, Virginia is a long one. I need to go back soon.

When my Nonnie makes bread, she is so young. Her hands are quick as she kneads, kneads, kneads. She never uses a mixer. Just her hands. She has no fancy equipment. Just hands.

I feel like I’ve grown up too much since I left for Williamsburg. Not that I’ve gotten involved in anything particularly worldly, but I certainly haven’t eaten much bread. I feel completely isolated here. So I started making bread yesterday, hoping that it would make me remember why I chose this historic town in the first place.

The problem is, when you make bread, you have to share it. It spoils quickly and is only good for toast the next day. So I decided to take bread to my neighbors. And guess who I visited first?

That’s right. Daniel. Daniel the early-rising, newspaper-reading, sweet-smelling guy downstairs. I see him every day now, and I am completely terrific at saying “Hello, here you go. Enjoy.” But beyond that, I just blush and mumble. I guess I haven’t grown up too much after all.

Anyway, yesterday morning after I had made my rounds, I decided to begin my bread-making venture with something simple. A loaf of country white. My Nonnie had given me a recipe book before I left, completely hand-written, and I’m ashamed to say that this was the first time I had used it. Not that I don’t cook (I LOVE to cook), but my tendency is more toward quick Asian food. Sophisticated food. After all, I am a big girl now.

I have helped my Nonnie a million times in the kitchen, but I felt like a five-year-old doing it on my own. I made a gigantic mess. And I didn’t wait to clean it up before heading downstairs to Daniel’s apartment.

What would I say?! What DID I say?! I remember that it was 3:00 in the afternoon before the bread was finished. I remember feeling very small and childish. My memory seems to have really kicked in as soon as HE started talking. And every nuance of that conversation has been running through my brain ever since.

(Him) “Hey there!”

(Me) “Hi. I was making bread this morning, and I had some extra. Would you like some?” (Why was I shaking as I handed it to him? Arggg…am I 12??)

“Oh wow. Thanks. I can’t believe I don’t know this yet…what is your name?”

“Mary Lee.” (It sounds especially 12-year-old-ish as I say it.)

“Hi, Mary Lee. I’m Daniel.” (Not surprisingly, it sounds like heaven when he says it.)

“Hi Daniel. (Pointing to the loaf) It’s bread. My grandmother used to make bread all the time, and I thought I’d start.” (It’s BREAD?! Of course it’s bread. Why did I say that?!)

“Thank you. I love bread. I don’t get much of the fresh stuff, though. This is great.”

“You’re welcome. I…probably should go upstairs. Got some job hunting to do.”

“Job hunting? What do you do?”

“I graduated from William & Mary. I’d like to be a writer, I think. Or really, I’d do anything that has to do with words.”

“I guess the newspaper fits you, then.”

“I guess. What do you do?”

(Looking a little embarrassed.) “Right now I do re-enactments at Colonial Williamsburg.”

“Really?! You’re one of those guys who dresses up in Civil-War era costume and pretends to fight?” (I’m interested, but for some reason I sounded a bit snarky.)

“Well…yes. But I really want to be an illustrator. I sell my work to some small publications every now and then. At least it’s something.”

“No, no. That’s cool. I’d love to see your drawings sometime.”

“Yeah. I’m working on something right now, but maybe later you can stop by.”

“Sure.”

“Cool. Well, I’ll see you later then. Good luck with your job search.”

“Yeah, thanks. See you later.”

And that was it. Not the most romantic encounter, but it took me so long to get to this point that I won’t complain.

The problem is that “later” hasn’t happened yet. I went by yesterday evening around 7, and he wasn’t home. This morning I took him his paper, and he wasn’t there for the first time since I started this route. Disappointing. I think I’ll go make some banana nut.

For the past month, I have been scrounging for jobs and leaning on my emergency fund for sustenance. It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve come used to hearing the word “no.” It’s scarcely a blip on my radar screen any more.

And now, after all of that scrounging, at least I’m working with words. My new position as newspaper delivery woman puts me in the vicinity of quite a few of them, in fact. Except rather than feel elevated by my post as deliverer of the common voice, I feel more like a species of drive-by gangster.

I begin my shift at 3:30am as I pull up in the back of the newspaper office. I load my hoard of newspapers in my hatchback and continue on my way.

Since I don’t know my way around yet, I spend most of my time looking for house numbers as my little grey car hums slowly down the street. I pray that none of the neighbors calls the police.

I was pretty lucky to get the job actually, despite that I may one day be required to explain myself to a member of the armed forces. My old co-worker’s brother is a columnist for our local paper, and he suggested that I use him as a reference. Fulfillment was the only department that was hiring, and even then they had only one position available. Despite my obvious over-qualification, I took the job and started work this past Saturday.

I work during the unholiest of hours, but I’m home by seven which gives me plenty of time to continue looking for other opportunities. The pay isn’t fantastic, but if I eat nothing but rice and beans and beans and rice, I should be able to sustain myself for the time being.

And you want to know the biggest perk of all? Daniel gets the paper. Yes, my mysterious neighbor has a name and does actually go out of doors. At 5:12am. To get the paper. So here’s the information I’ve collected on him so far:

  • Wherever he went on his vacation, he has returned with an incredible tan
  • He sleeps in brightly-colored shirts (today’s was green)
  • He has a great smile (and smiles quite often)

Not much to go on, but quite enough to magnetize my mind in his direction. I resolve to say more to him than “hi” and “here you go” tomorrow. I am determined!

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