Kneading

I spent an hour or so this afternoon crushing graham crackers. If you’ve never done it, crushing graham crackers is harder than it looks. I will blame the shortness of this post on my tired hands that don’t want to type, rather than on the fact that I’m plumb tuckered out.

graham crackersThere was no rolling pin and only flimsy plastic bags that broke when cracker corners went through them, so the work of crushing had to be done by hand—my hands, working the crackers in the bag, punching, gripping and spindling, kneading.

I thought of my mom’s hands, kneading the bread dough on the kitchen counter at least one afternoon a week when I was growing up. I’d get home from school, get a snack, and as I sat on one side of the counter eating it, she stood at the other, kneading the bread dough, pushing, balling, working it with the heel of her palm.

There was a rhythm, a force, a regular tempo she followed, keeping the conversation going all along, listening as I talked about my day.

When I was in college, my sisters and I helped Mom out at a Mother-Daughter retreat where she was speaking. We did a Q&A for the final session and someone asked for wisdom on spending quality time with her daughter.

My mom said, “Well I always tried to be doing work in the kitchen when you got home from school so you could debrief your day. I arranged my days so the afternoon was in the kitchen.”

My sisters and I blinked at one another. “That was on purpose?” we asked.

Mom often said that kneading bread is all the therapy she needs—she got out her aggression and worked through the tension and stress of the day. And as I worked to knead the graham crackers, I let myself get lost in the rhythm, the crushing, the turning of my knuckles. And thoughts I’d been swirling around settled themselves into pleasant places and rolled on to the tempo of the work.

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