Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Wonder of Wonder Bread

Originally published in The Valley Press March 2005

The Wonder Bread truck travels Highway 9 behind me. I see it in my rearview mirror, white box on wheels, red writing across the hood, and those red, blue and yellow dots around the words. Those dots, I was never sure of, were they balloons? But, I was surely jealous, I remember now. When I was a kid, my friends brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school on exquisitely squishy white Wonder Bread packed in patterned paper bags, and I toted my lunch of tuna on grocery store brand wheat in a smelly tin box.

I think about now, how when offering Communion to one another in worship, we often say of the loaf as we tear a piece, “the bread of life.” How much we need bread, a staple in so many cultures, so basic as to appear at every meal. There is something soothing about the familiarity of bread, its long history in our lives, beginning in the kitchens of our ancestors who kneaded and baked, nurtured and fed.

For so many of us, bread comes off a truck, like the one behind me, carted on trays into a supermarket, where we’re confronted with shelves filled with bags of soft-spongy presliced product. For a few years in college and after, before I became a mother short on time, I learned to make yeast bread, and practiced the ancient rhythms of mixing, kneading, rising and baking in my modern kitchen quite frequently. Some of what I made, filled with ground soy nuts, emerged from the oven a perfectly weighted doorstop, or with an interior tunnel large enough for a Barbie doll bed. Most of my homemade bread, with its extra thick crusts and substantial texture, was a welcome accompaniment to soup in the winter, and salad in the summer, a thick slice or two, all that was needed to complete a meal.

Then my children came along, and I gave them my bread-making time, settling instead for a machine on my counter that makes strange square loaves, when we don’t have a power outage, or more often, loaves baked fresh in Santa Cruz and delivered to our local markets.

How we could all benefit from a return to fresh bread and fresh tortillas, if not made in our homes by or for those we love, then by standing in line at a bakery, breathing in the fragrance of yeast and wheat, watching the steaming loaves being pulled from the ovens on wooden paddles, set on wire racks to cool, then bundled into paper sacks for us to carry home. How much we can learn from bread, about tradition, about comfort, about nourishing our bodies and our souls.

I stop at the red light at Glen Arbor Road, and the Wonder Bread truck looms large in my rearview mirror. I think of Jesus and how he said we don’t live by bread alone. And if we need more than bread to sustain us, then Wonder, like the truck advertises, must be the other critical ingredient. Jesus says that we’re nourished not solely by bread, but by every word that comes from God.

God is speaking loud and clear to me on the drive, in a field just past the signal, where daffodils bob and weave amidst the green winter grass, from the Plant Works in the language of bud and blossom lining the fence, the fruit tree’s riotous welcome to the coming spring, clouds of pink and white dancing on treetops. Even in Santa Cruz at the orthodontist office, a parking lot filled with flowering plums, their delicate blossoms falling in the rain and blanketing car hoods, and the smiling teenagers in all phases of teeth straightening who people the waiting room.

Of course, I lost the bread truck when it pulled into the Safeway parking lot back in Felton, but I don’t need it anymore to remind me that if I simply pay attention, I will find Wonder everywhere.

©Cathy Warner 2005

No comments: