Published on October 5th, 2021 | by Megan Hanlon1
How to Make Pumpkin Bread 15 Years Later
Dig out the recipe your mother scrawled on a pale yellow Post-It note, one of the few things you own that her hands once touched. Scrutinize every letter like you’re looking for her face.
Gather together ingredients: Flour, sugar, butter, solid pumpkin, solid lump in your throat, raisins, milk, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, the time you baked cookies together and dusted most of the kitchen in flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg as brown as the flowers after her funeral.
In a bowl hollow as your heart, sift together dry ingredients. Watch what once was familiar spread and scatter until it becomes something else, no longer recognizable. Pinpricks of essence in a sea of white tedium. Set it aside and keep going.
In a bowl 1,200 miles away, mix wet ingredients, stirring with effort against the tears stinging your eyes. Notice the tendons rise on the back of your hand as you push the wooden spoon in endless loops long after you should have given up. Remember the back of her hand, olive against your pink, the gold wedding bands with the tiny diamond chip that won’t fit your finger no matter how hard you strain. The jeweler wanted to resize it, but that felt like desecration.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine grief with anger, relief with trauma, her eyes with yours. The batter is orange like her favorite color. Draw a deep breath and revel in an aroma that smells like your childhood minus the trauma and cigarette smoke.
Pour batter into two loaf pans. Divided equally like her ashes because you didn’t trust your brother to care for all of your mother, even after death.
Bake until toothpick comes out clean, nothing like your memories which are clumpy and shining. Let cool like the last time you touched her hand in the funeral home, through the vinyl body bag, when you whispered peace into her unhearing ear.
Cut and serve with cream cheese and black coffee straight from the percolator. Repeat communion annually in November, around her birthday. Eat until you are left with empty pans and the vague sense that once there was sweetness.