When we think of warm fresh-baked bread right out of the oven, we often find ourselves thinking of home. At Sanctuary, we are very intentional about trying to create a sense of home together. We are blessed every week to have one of our friends bake a dozen loaves of bread for our meal. But she always leaves the last few loaves uncooked, so that when we get to the church we can put them in the oven, and before long the whole building smells like home.
One Monday, she and her son came to our drop-in with all the ingredients and invited our friends to bake bread withthem. It was an incredible time of laughing and learning and just being together. Another friend of ours, Grace, also loves to bake bread, and so we invited her to join us in the kitchen. It was hard to understand when she said, “I don’t want to.” However, a few days later, Grace shared with us that it was not that she didn’t want to bake with us, but that she was afraid her emotions might get the best of her. And then she began to share… This is Grace’s story.
“Fresh-baked bread makes me think of the smell of bread going through my home as a child. I grew up making bread. I learned when I was twelve years old. My mother taught me without a recipe – just a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that. Bread-making throughout my childhood was very important to me because of how it made me feel. I came from a dysfunctional and abusive home. There were problems with my father. He dominated the household and he was hurtful towards me. Because of the way that I was born, I wasn’t accepted by my father and my six siblings, so the bread-making with my mom was healing for me.
Because of different problems I had, I could not always go to school. Those were special times with my mom when my siblings were all in school and my dad was away. We’d go on walks together and she taught me to find wild mint and berries, but most often, when it was just the two of us, we baked together. She taught me how to make bread, pies, and pastries, and I taught her to make donuts. I’d help her mix the flour and yeast, and I helped knead the dough. It was important that I did it withher, standing beside her, both of us together, mixing and kneading the bread.
My father always told me I was ‘no good’, but when I stood beside my mom making bread with her, I felt like I was the most special person in the world. She didn’t really use words a lot to tell me how she felt about me (she was a very quiet person), but I knew she loved me during that time together. My father and my siblings made me feel like I didn’t belong, but when I made bread with my mom, I felt like I belonged and was safe.
When my mom got sick, I took over the bread-making for the whole family. Now she’s gone and I miss her like crazy. People tell me I take after her and that makes me really proud. I love remembering the bread-making with her–those are great memories. Sometimes even now, when I’m struggling with difficult emotions, the memory of bread-making is a safe haven for me.
When I think of the smell of fresh-baked bread, it brings to mind sunshine, warm days, and my own three children, now grown-up, and how I’ve passed onto them my experience of baking bread, with a dollop of this and a pinch of that. Eating the bread at Sanctuary drop-ins each week makes me think of my family and of home. I think that both fresh bread and bread-making is very important for the people in the Sanctuary community, because it creates feelings of acceptance and belonging. For someone who never grew up with fresh bread or anything baked, they might come here and eat fresh bread with their friends, and this is wonderful, because it gives them a sense of family they might not otherwise have. Making and eating bread together can help us feel a part of something, and also new friendships can happen. There is just something about the bread that makes us feel at home.”