May 22, 2019
The bakery outlet
The Spring sunshine drew my eyes away from my monitors for only a moment. Seeing her opportunity, Mother Nature blew me a warm, kissing breeze through the window. I obediently laced on my sneakers and took a walk.
I decided to try a new route, and I discovered to my delight that a bakery outlet store stands less than a mile away from my front door. I’m still discovering this neighborhood. After all, I’ve only lived here a couple of weeks. My family hasn’t moved, but I have. My move wasn’t particularly joyous, but neither was it tragic. My wife helped me to find the apartment and even to move. We’re leaving the future open-ended.
Immediately, I began walking my new neighborhood, the streets of which traverse lots of hills. Once as I reached the crest of a steep one and turned around to catch my breath, I caught my breath again at the view. Though I was miles away, I could see the point of land where we lived years ago, in much happier days. From that elevation and distance, I might have been looking back on my past life from the hereafter.
But today I discovered the bakery outlet. When I was a child, my mother and grandmother often took my sisters and me shopping in Danville, Virginia. Country bumpkins that we were, we children felt that this was a Big City Excursion. We walked in awe down Main Street flanked by department stores with more than one floor. While the womenfolk (that is, everyone but me) tried on clothes, I busied myself in fascination with the escalators or the pneumatic tubes that the clerks used to transfer payments to their back-office. And of course the big treat: we’d eat lunch at Woolworth’s — one of the few restaurants I ever visited at that age.
On the way back home, we’d often stop at the Sunbeam bakery outlet on Piney Forest Road. The adults would stock up on white bread at a discount, but my sisters and I looked forward to a treat that had been held over our heads all day, “If you behave!”: Honey-Buns. It was so hard to remain pleasant all day (especially through the endless fittings), but the Honey-Bun provided a powerful motivation to do so. This wasn’t the Little Debbie pastry in a box that currently blasphemes the name. It was a sticky-sweet monstrosity that was so large it was individually wrapped. We’d each get a whole one if we were good.
I’ve never seen Sunbeam bread in this part of the country. My newfound bakery outlet sells Franz products instead. It sports a long ramp instead of stairs at the front door, just like the bakery outlet of my youth. And as I opened the door, the scent of baked goods seemed to transport me back to that same place.
Serendipitously, I needed a loaf of Rye Bread, which I found along the back wall and carried to the counter. I noticed various persuasions of Danishes in a display cabinet, but nothing that resembled a Honey-Bun. As the portly young woman rang up my purchase, I said, “It’s nice to have this store within walking distance of my new home.”
She smiled and acknowledged my good fortune.
“Say, you wouldn’t have any ‘Honey-Buns’ would you? A large, individually-wrapped pastry that my sisters and I used to devour when we were children, which I can almost taste right now and which would, if I could but have one, seem like a kiss from Providence, a divine reassurance that despite everything that has happened in my life since those early days of innocence and especially recently, there is still love, there is still hope, there is still joy in the world?”
“No, I’m sorry, we don’t.”