Looking back, I’m not sure what I was thinking–considering calling social services–because of the duress my parents put us kids through, walking miles and miles of hilly city blocks to elementary school when the temperature was well below -40F.
I never did call.
And, now as an adult I notice the concrete and asphalt path I would have taken as a child is maybe seven city blocks, eight if you count the half-block from my childhood home to catch the main road south, and add to that the half-block of school yard to the red brick that holds the oak swinging doors with wired glass that looks like a solid version of transparent graph paper. Today this path is nearly table top level.
I got my education, never froze to death, was never frostbitten, not even once.
I can today easily beckon the yeasty bakery smell of freshly cooked raspberry bismarks rolled in white sugar, and the scent of gooey caramelized cinnamon knots. I can feel the crunchy sugar melting on my teeth, and the sticky caramel firmly filling the valleys of my molars to be washed away by a watering mouth. Every few minutes fresh trays of yeast donuts, cinnamon buns and fresh crusty breads would join the racks already on display, each new rack a fresh extension and variation of yeasty aromas. Big aluminum baking sheets holding rows of still-warm fresh out-of-the-fat treats, whirling out of the back of the bake shop by a flour-dusted baker, head to toe in white uniform. My molars are being washed just now, thinking about the knots.
The baker was the first one out of bed in the whole neighborhood.
As kids we would pull in there and park our child’s appetite for a few minutes to warm from the cold, and spend our pocket money on fresh baked donuts or moist pastries boiled in near smoking beef tallow until crisp and wonderfully delicious. How can something we hold in such disdain today taste exquisite, even in our memory? The whole deep-frying process has been cleaned up, lightened and de-saturated. Animals are no longer involved: shame really
It’s warm, and steamy in there. And for a dime you could get two choices. The pull to the service counter affected us before the peach colored stucco shop came into view. If the breeze was right the smell of bakery wafted over the concrete and right up our nose, us slipping into the gluten vortex like a pirate ship swirling in the Bermuda Triangle, helpless, but not hopeless.
With bismark in sugary hand my focus expanded from the baked goods to see the exotic imports from Holland. This was a Dutch Bakery: oily black diamonds of pungent licorice, special spicy mustards and unrecognizable pickles, European Jams, and the pleasantly round face of the baker’s daughter, all very exotic to me at age seven.
Standing there in front of the counter.
I still stand in front of the counter. The raspberry Bismarks are my favorite.