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Past My Bedtime

(by Gabriella Marie)

I could hear Julie Andrews singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” from inside the kitchen, and I could smell good things as I crept my eight-year-old self downstairs. I thought I was crafty, as I slowly peered around the corner and into the cozy kitchen. There I saw my sprite-like mother sitting on the hardwood floor with a great big roasting pan between her outstretched legs, kneading a mountain of sweet-smelling dough while peering up at the small television we kept next to the kitchen table.

She almost immediately noticed my presence, and my heart dropped. Certainly she would send me back to bed. My bedtime was a firm 8 o’clock. Being a teacher, she would most likely scold, emphasize the importance of sleep for the young, and send me straight from whence I came.

“Well, if you’re up, you might as well help.”

How could this be? Not questioning her seeming lapse in judgment, I scampered to a space next to her on the floor. Behind us, she had left the oven door ajar, letting a warmth surround me to match the warmth I felt inside. I gazed at the roasting pan in wonder.

“We’re going to divide this into two or possibly three loaves. Can you grate some more lemon rind over the dough for me, please?”

I excitedly reached up to the kitchen table for a lemon and our ridiculously oversized cheese grater—the sort of contraption that looks like a tower and finds a way to grate your fingers no matter how careful you try and be in its operation. The television underscored my efforts with: “...how do you solve a problem…”

“…like Maria? How do you hold a moonbeam...in..your...hand?”

My mother’s voice, dreamy and soft, sang along with the program.

Both of my parents loved to sing, and had the chops for it. I can still summon the memory of my father singing "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha, and no matter how far I am from upstate New York, I feel like I’m right back there, at home. My mother would sing and play the score from Oliver! on the piano while my younger brother and I were allowed to dance wildly throughout the house. A happy childhood. A happy home.

By the end of the movie, we had baked four loaves of bread and sung every song together.

And I stayed up way past my bedtime.

---

Gabriella Marie has a master's degree in educational leadership, and has worked as a middle- and high-school English teacher for almost ten years. She lives in Northern Virginia.

Mom Benedetto’s Easter Sweet Bread

1 c. shortening

1 3/4 c. milk

14 c. flour

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 t. salt

12 eggs

1 package dry yeast

2 T. lukewarm water

2 T. anise extract

grated rind of 1 lemon

2 egg yolks, beaten with 2 T. water

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt shortening and milk together; let cool.

In a large pan, make a well in the flour.

Add sugar, salt, eggs, and cooled milk mixture.

Proof yeast in lukewarm water, and add to flour mixture, along with anise and lemon rind..

Mix together well. Cover with a clean dishtowel and pan lid, and let rise overnight.

Punch dough down and form 4 loaves.

Allow to rise again, approximately 1 hour.

Brush top with egg yolk mixture.

Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until loaves are a light golden color.

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