Growing up, there was only one day every year my mother allowed me to indulge in eating bread and that was Fat Tuesday. This wasn't any old bread; it was Saint Joseph's Day Bread — fried, not baked.
Looking back, my mother may have had her holidays mixed up, since Saint Joseph's Day is celebrated annually on March 19, and she made her bread on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
My mother usually prepared Saint Joseph's Day Bread in the late afternoon hours, after my three brothers, two sisters and I arrived home from school.
When Mother baked, I detected sunshine in the way she moved about the kitchen. Her eyes were no longer overcast and she wore an unrecognizable cheer that I wanted to wrap my arms around and bury my face in forever.
If only this mother would have stayed with that sparkle in her eyes. The one who playfully patted and prodded the dough until it was smooth and round. The mother who hummed Moon River while patiently waiting for the dough to rise.
This mother, her chin held high, pinched small clumps of dough to form a roll between soft palms; she then dropped it into hot grease and turned the roll bronze.
I would stand beside her as she lifted the fried bread and plopped it into a mountain of confectionery sugar, turning it until it was completely white, forming a mouthwatering new skin.
Saint Joseph's Day Bread called us together in that kitchen of long ago as a sweet incense filled our childhood home. The making and eating of Saint Joseph's Day Bread was a liturgy — a holy practice of collaboration, companionship and a mother's high spirits.
When Fat Tuesday rolled around this past week, I cheerfully went to that place in the kitchen of my childhood, near my mother and once again took in the aroma of Saint Joseph's Day Bread.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her blog at www.my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on Facebook.
2010© Paula Damon