By GENEVIEVE A. SUZUKI
If there’s one thing this whole coronavirus shutdown has taught me, it’s that I have been taking people in my life for granted.
Prior to March, I thought nothing of buying bread and dropping off my son at preschool. Since the restrictions, I have learned just how hard it is to bake bread and how frustrating it is to try to really teach a 5-year-old.
In finding my new appreciation for the skills necessary to do those two things, I have come to really feel gratitude toward bakers and preschool teachers, two occupations that require a higher level of patience than I possess.
Baking bread is as hard as my sourdough crust
To be fair, I did not sign up to bake sourdough bread, even though I worried in the beginning we would suffer from a bread shortage at the stores. Initially, dear friends of mine had told me they were going to share a loaf with me. Free bread? Sign me up for that, I thought.
But what they shared wasn’t just the loaf, but a jar of starter and a how-to-bake-bread book. “So you can do it, too,” they said.
So I could do it, too. Little did I know I would be feeding this starter – it’s a lot like feeding the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” – on a nightly basis. My nighttime routine consisted of feeding the cat and then the jar of starter for the eventual bake.
By the time I got the gumption to finally bake the bread, I also acquired a Dutch oven and flour sack dish towels. My husband, Derek, eyed me warily. He had been watching me collect the various supplies with skepticism. I couldn’t blame him. Prior to this, my cooking was limited to boxed brownies, spaghetti and lasagna. If there were instructions on the box, I could make it.
Unlike something from a box, sourdough bread demands attention and patience. You feed the starter then wait. Then you create the loaf starter and wait. Then you mix and wait. And you wait, wait and wait some more.
Thankfully, the bread came out decent. It wasn’t as delicious as bread from Boudin, but it was more than a little edible for a few days. After the few days, however, the crust hardened enough you could use the loaf as a weapon. The problem is I also had to make two loaves at a time.
After a few weeks of sourdough bread, my family begged me to stop baking. So I stopped, but now give a slight nod of acknowledgment to loaves at the store, knowing how much goes into creating that bready goodness.
Preschool teachers are angels who walk among us
I admit my hubris when I became my son Deacon’s preschool teacher in March. I believed it would be easy. I like crafts enough, know my alphabet and like to sing and dance. Plus I love the little guy, which should make it that much easier, right?
Totally wrong. By the second week, I was pleading with the dude to nap as he insisted on watching kids’ TV with wide eyes. He rejected writing practice and mocked my attempts to have him color. And I realized I did not like to clean up after craft time so I hid the glue and the child-proof scissors.
Every day for almost three months it was the same thing, too. We ate breakfast then we argued over whether he would do something educational. After lunch, we would argue again over whether the TV needed to be on for him to nap – I discovered at this point my son is amazingly strong willed as he literally laid next to me for an hour without sleeping while I passed out somewhere in the middle of it. After the nap, we would then do some light reading, which eventually denigrated into “Hey, look, Cartoon Network is on.”
I miss Deacon’s preschool teachers at St. Martin of Tours. They’re made of sugar, cinnamon and everything nice. They never told me my mini-monster was incorrigible nor did they complain about his weird obsession with Belarus. Every weekday he was there, he napped, learned and came home with a craft to display. I guess I could blame them for making it seem so easy someone like me thought I could do just as good a job.
Whenever that vaccine and treatment are developed, and we return to normal life, there are at least two groups of people in my neighborhood who have a devoted fan in their corner. Anyone who has the patience to bake bread or teach toddlers deserves all the love in the world.
— Genevieve A. Suzuki is a local family law attorney and a former editor of the La Mesa Courier.