58 – missing Mama, loving Kels, baking bread

When I headed for Texas at 48, separating from my husband of 27 years, I felt like a monstrous failure because I couldn’t make my marriage work. There were no kids involved, and I had lived with the knowledge that I couldn’t have children since 1985. Honestly, as I was leaving him, I acknowledged that I would seriously be willing to die alone if it meant that I didn’t have to live with my ex anymore. Ever. Seriously.

I began a new job a week after I got to my sister’s in West Texas.  I worked with Kelsey’s dad, and some months later, ended up falling in love with him–there was just something inevitable and irresistible about the whole thing.  When he asked if I’d be willing to tutor 17-year-old Kelsey, I said yes without a second thought. She had only the one algebra test to pass in order to graduate from high school. I sat down with her, and found that she knew the subject, but her teachers had damaged her confidence… she didn’t need tutoring, she just needed to be know that she was smart, and capable.

Six weeks later, I moved in with them… and Kels had no idea what to call me, so she would just say, “Hey,” when she needed to get my attention.The test was still looming large in Kelsey’s life, and she finally took it in December. That afternoon, she came flying into my office, over the moon, “Mom, I passed the test, I passed it!” With that one little throw-away word, I was done. I had a daughter, self-nominated, unanimously elected, forever my child.

I’ll tell her brother’s story in another post–you have to be fair with these things… 🙂 I learned as I lived with Kelsey that she needed family more than most–and she was so pleased to see her dad happily married to me.  But, she had already signed up to go in the Army before I ever met her, and by September, just three short months after we married, she was off to Basic Training.

She came home on leave a few times, but it was never, ever long enough… We flew to Texas for a short week with her and Tyler on his first birthday. He was just at the stage where he was pulling up on furniture, yet to take his first step. As I write this, however, the two-and-a-half-year-old Tyler is yowling like a scalded cat ’cause his mama is making him take a shower… the easiest way to get him clean, apparently. And these days, he’s not just walking, he lives most of his life at a dead run. Before the water torture began, Kels and I had talked over how long she can stay, and when she must show up at her next base in Missouri… and I so hate to let her go.

We are finally that family that she wanted and needed so badly, but she must leave soon to see her aunt, uncle and cousins near Corpus Christi. When she leaves there, Tyler won’t be with her; he’ll be staying with his dad for three months. I do not want to see either of their faces at that parting.

If you’ve read my prior posts, many have revolved around bread, and recipes, and this is no exception. The pictures below show Kelsey learning to make bread with my mother’s recipe… One joyful morning spent passing on the knowledge that I thought would die with me. Now it’s going to live on, transferred to her children when they’re ready. Because she’s the mom, that’s why. And so am I.

Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress...
Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress…

Kneading the bread dough
Kneading the bread dough

First rise is complete...
First rise is complete…

Shaping the sandwich rolls.
Shaping the sandwich rolls.

Rolling out the cinnamon rolls
Rolling out the cinnamon rolls

Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.
Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.

Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.
Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.
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