Updated: Jul 19
There is hard cracked leather underneath my bare sweaty legs.
The upholstery above my head is hanging down and dirty grey.
It may break down again.
It may leave us on the side of the road, to stand on steaming asphalt
while plans are made, hood open to what I don't want to see.
I try to keep very still. I try to be weightless.
I try not to notice how loud, rough, and smokey it is.
I pretend I don't care.
I pretend I don't need it.
I am little,
my back is pressed against the seat's back
and my legs are straight out in front of me.
It's early in the morning, it's summer, and we are somewhere in the city.
There is no air-conditioning, the windows are down, and the smell of burning oil floats
My father is driving us to a bakery outside of our neighborhood.
He says, "They know what they're doing, it's a drive but...
They know what they are doing."
He nods his head up and down with each word. Convinced.
I relax a little. He doesn't think the car will stop working.
I try to see everything outside my window, but we are moving to fast
to get the details I want.
We walk in, into another world, the tiny brass bell on the door jingles.
The air is a heavy mix of fresh bread, sweets, and coffee.
I look down at my slip-on red sneakers.
I am standing on a narrow sea of shiny black and white tiles.
Red on black and white.
My father's shoes are brown leather, they turn to face left and stop.
I look up and see a long glass case; a spotless see-through shield
that divides two worlds.
On one side, there are absolute promises of sweetness
in all colors and shapes, waiting quietly to be chosen.
On the other side, there are strangers lining up, talking,
wanting things, the bell jingling, and me.
I stare through the glass shield.
My eyes are hungry.
Brown sugar clumps dusted with confectionary sugar
on top of buttery white cake.
I smell cinnamon.
Bombolini (doughnuts) with the cremes and jellies poking out
making different shapes, big sugar crystals coating them all.
I smell hot milk, raspberry, and sweet fried dough.
The biscotti with sliced almonds making unique patterns
on their smooth sides.
These must be dunked before biting.
I smell anise.
First, I stare at the things I know my father always gets.
Then... I let my eyes roam. It is overwhelming.
I see creams bursting out of pastries sprinkled with chocolate chips,
I see coats of powdered sugar clinging,
fruits glistening in sugar glazes heaping,
shiny coats of dipped chocolate surfaces,
pink and green sprinkles leaving no space between them.
Dark chocolate, raspberry, and apricot centers.
I see the round, rectangular, square, crescent, and tubular shapes,
of cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies.
Some are light and puffed up high, some are dense and low, layered or filled, or both.
I want to kiss them all!
I want to be an opera singer, my arms raised up high, singing out my love for all I see
behind this clear glass shield.
I hear my father say, "pick one little treat, one little thing, for the car ride home,
our secret, one little thing."
But how can I choose?
My heart races, I have little time. My father does not like to wait.
I open my eyes as wide as I can, maybe that will help me see more?
No. I pretend I am a bird, an eagle. Yes, it is good to have "eagle eyes".
I am soaring alongside the glass shield with my "eagle eyes" and WHAM,
I see it!
The most beautiful, perfect, rectangular, chocolatey, colorful prize
in this universe of prizes: The Rainbow Cookie. My rainbow.
I grab my father's pant leg and bring him over so I can show him.
I point, there is a speck of air between my finger and the glass.
I am careful and steady, I know the rules.
I hear the woman behind the counter say "Certo! Certo!"
She is happy with my choice!
She grabs a small piece of wax paper and hovers over the tray,
she is hunting for the best one. I love her too!
She picks one and for a tiny second it disappears underneath her hand
as she lifts it up and away from the rest.
She doesn't give the rainbow to my father but instead waves me over
to the low counter. I follow her, excited. She reaches over and places it in
my open palm, and smiles at me.
I smile back at her even though I am very shy.
The bell jingles for us as we leave.
Back in the car I keep my palm open and stare at my treasure.
I wonder why it is called a rainbow cookie when it is so much more
like a mini color stacked rainbow cake.
I touch each layer with my left pointer finger,
there are three: bright green, yellowish-white, and pinky-red.
They are soft, moist, and dense.
There is a red jam soaking into each color and a thinly spread chocolate icing
on the top and the bottom.
I bring it up to my nose and inhale.
It smells chocolatey, almondy, fruity.
I bring it close to my eyes and inspect every texture.
I see where the knife lifted up the chocolate icing at it's edges.
I move my open palm up and down to feel it's weight.
It weighs less than jacks and more than a softball.
The chocolate part is moist but it isn't melting in my hand.
What genius invented this?
My father says "eat, eat, finish it before we get home."
But I don't want to. I want this moment and this rainbow in my hand
to last forever.
My father says my name but I keep my eyes studied on this gift.
He switches on the radio. I hear violins, cellos, and a flute (or piccolo?).
The car stops longer than it would for a street light or a stop sign.
I look over at the driver's seat.
My father's car door swings open and he is getting out.
We are home.
I don't know what to do.
I can't open the heavy car door with one hand.
Will my father open the door for me?
I look down at my right palm and all it holds.
Then, my door swings open, "Come on, come on, let's go" he says as he grabs
the bakery bags and the fat New York Times from the back seat.
I am too little to be left in the car alone.
"Come on, come on, scoot out, scoot, scoot, scoot".
He has forgotten what is in my hand.
I scoot slowly and carefully, I keep my hand steady and out in front of me.
I walk close behind him, he becomes my shield, but he is opaque not glass.
He pauses at the kitchen door (kick, kick, kick)
"Open up my hands are full...for chrissake"
One second left, I bring my rainbow to my mouth and whisper
"I love you" and pop the whole thing in, bam, safe.
My mouth is completely full and I hold it still, no chewing.
The door swings open and it is loud and fast inside that kitchen.
I head straight to my bedroom, eyes forward, and I make it unnoticed.
I sit on the edge of my bed, on my purple bedcover with tiny yellow flowers.
My rainbow is still whole in my mouth.
I close my eyes and try to smush it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth.
I am trying to eat it without using my teeth.
I taste almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon.
I realize I have to chew or I'll choke.
But, I chew slowly, slowly, slowly.
Almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon...almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon...
the flavors leave my tongue and bit by bit go down my throat.
My stomach will have it all soon but time is moving slowly and my mouth is not empty yet.
I think: don't ever forget this, don't ever ever forget this.
Don't ever ever ever forget this.
And I haven't.
me and my dad, the only picture I have of the two of us together.
me at 5 years.
I am a woman in my 50's now, from the east coast and living many miles and years away from the scene of this memory. My father and I went to many different bakeries, on Sunday mornings, throughout my childhood. He was always searching for the best one and I was always happy to join. The bakery I wrote about was the one I remember the most. Maybe it was the first one he took me to. We were a team on those bakery runs, each allowing the other their own experience, he liked new possibilities, and I loved the details. I don't have Italian bakeries where I live now, and I no longer have my father. But, I do have cherished memories, like this one, that I keep very near and alive in my heart.
by Katey Furgason
Thank you for reading my story.
This memory has never faded and I wanted to write it out and share it, to place it in the world.
I think the memories we keep are the narratives of our lives...they reveal to us who we were and what shaped us into who we are.
For many reasons I have always found comfort in latching onto chosen details; to be active in choosing what to focus on. Maybe that helped me feel in control of my environment, maybe it's just what my heart and mind do. I learned something in the process of writing and structuring this memory... in retrospect, it seems I was practicing how to move from discomfort and fear to calmness and joy, in a short time.