Days are flying by so quickly that I cannot believe that I am in the third decade of my life. The past decades left behind many beautiful and many bitter memories, but the memories I keep longing for are the memories of my childhood. The mysterious ways of my childhood that remained a magic to me are my biggest motivators in life. Today, I want to bring you back to a time in my life before my family and I moved to the United States. The story takes place in my childhood home in our cultural Ottoman-like kitchen with a furnace.
Yes, it is the furnace that I want to share with you. The same furnace that cooked our many kinds of delicious fresh bread and various delicious meals. The magic of the furnace stories is not the furnace in itself per se, it is the family circle around our sweet mom who made our lives filled with unconditional love and abundance of happiness during our childhood.
One particular time that I recall is when my older brother and I were in front of our mom as she rolled the sweet dough to make a challah after the Passover. We did not call it a challah, it was just a sweet bread to me. But the magic was there as our mom allowed us to roll the dough in a way we wanted and to create our own small creations that we later ate. I think I must have been less than eight in one particular such event, when my older brother and I questioned as to why a small portion of the bread is taken from the dough and is then burnt. I could not understand why a poor piece of dough was covered in all the ashes. What was the purpose of it? I do not remember my mom’s answers, but I know that every time she would mention that that is how her grandmother did it and that is how both of my parents’ mom’s did it. The second question that always bothered my head is how come only women bake bread in my family? Why not man like the other people and why only bread? The answer, as I recall in my memory, has always been simple that only women bake the bread.
Another memory takes me back to a moment when our mom left us the poorly rising dough to be prepped for baking and later to be baked. It was a huge challenge in front of us, and luckily my brother was strong enough to knead the dough. Our mom had entrusted us the whole process because the previous few times of baking weekly bread, which was on every Thursday, the bread would turn out flat. It was unusual for us to have a flat bread. That time though, when we the children prepared the bread, placed it in the six tins, prepared the fire in the furnace, placed the bread in the furnace, sealed the furnace diligently according to our mom’s instructions and then patiently watched the clock to run out of 60 minutes, the bread turned out to be perfect. Can you believe it? We were very ambitious children, but we knew that we might have over waited for the bread to rise the second time once we had placed them in the tins. So there was a huge sense of relief when we pulled all six of the breads out of the furnace, cracked one fo the fresh breads open, seasoned it with homemade seasoning and with salt and took our first bites. We were on seventh heaven. It was delicious. Oh that smell! If only everyone would know how it feels to be in that environment! The sense of relief and accomplishment with an over exceptional result made my eyes glow.
And we were simply content. Our mom was very pleased with us. And even though we did tell her that we waited a bit too long for the second rising, she responded that even if the bread would turn out as rock hard, she would still be proud of us because what she was aware of, we were not, which is that the newly purchased flour from a month prior was not good. So this was one of our many miracles.
There are a lot of miracles I have seen in my childhood which became fewer and fewer when we moved to United States. My only regret is that I had locked away memories of my beautiful childhood while going through hard times in Sacramento.
Sacramento times are long gone, but my memories remain beautifully intact as I recall them and share with my siblings. Sometimes, I become sad when remembering that my younger siblings did not live through the same childhood as I did. Those early years of my life are what made me a tender and affectionate woman. At times, I feel that my sister lives those moments through my stories. I hope it brings a certain comfort to her of a mysterious magic that the children in America can only dream of. As for me, even though the furnace is not a part of my life, my mom handed down to me two pots that she had since her marriage began. These same two pots that we had used in our furnace in the trench town, I now posses.