Hot Cross Buns

It’s officially Spring, and on days like these, I recall my mother coming home with hot-cross buns. They were proffered with a flourish and the announcement that we could have them on that day, that one very special day. I don’t remember, however, why or which day was so unique. And we were indeed allowed to have the Hot-Cross Buns on that day alone. But those days, those days were Catholic days, and they held many a ritual glory. When I close my eyes I see white ribbed socks turned over to measured perfection above black patent-leather shoes, yellow tulips in the center of the dining room table, a decanter of coffee and small plates next to them.

The house would smell of Spring, of open windows and soft breezes, of the lace curtains that would dance in the sunlight. In those days Lent was taken seriously. Easter would be a celebration and an end to fasting and abstaining from meat. Thusly, on the Good Friday before Easter, before the celebration of the Messiah! we would acknowledge that day and the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. We would have Hot-Cross Buns.

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When Elizabeth the first ruled England (1592) it was decreed that hot-cross buns and other spiced breads were not to be sold other than at burials or Good Friday, or at Christmas. There was in fact a punishment for doing so—all of the forbidden baked goods were confiscated and given to the poor. James the first continued the tradition in 1603.

Poor Robin’s Almanac in 1733 published a London street cry, the first definite record of Hot-Cross Buns:

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns.

Nothing can be found for earlier records or recipes.

The more recent recipes for the baked goodies can include descriptions for the meaning or symbolism held within the ingredients. The cross itself has evolved to mostly include a sugar frosting:  confectioners’ sugar, milk, lemon zest and vanilla. This is how my newly purchased, boxed grocery-store treasure is completed. I’ll sing the song on Friday.

Hot_Cross_Buns_detail,_March_2008

—Information/background & photo from Wikipedia—

Then

I’m eating Twinkies. I haven’t had one since I was a child. And it was rare then, only upon occasion.

Then the mailman’s name was Ray, and the mail was delivered twice a day. When there was a letter he would ring the doorbell or shout through the screen door. If it was a letter from my brother he would persist until someone answered. (My brother was off fighting whichever war we were giving then.) He didn’t have to persist often or long—we always watched for the mail.

There were milkmen who delivered milk in glass bottles and you could hear the bottles clanging in the carrier as he walked to your door. Some people got chocolate milk and we knew the houses they went to.

We played softball in the street in front of my house and quit when the streetlights came on. We had to go home then. If earlier and some other reason to go home, you would hear someone’s father’s whistle. We all knew the different sounds and pitches that belonged to us.

Those nights you could hear the sounds of laughter, and children’s voices, and cicadas calling with the tree toads, and a few birds still visiting. Sometimes you could hear wandering bullfrogs calling for their mates. And crickets. The sound of crickets was the music we fell asleep to. Once in a while you would hear a car go by, and the thump, thump of the tires as they went across the tarred strips.

It was quiet on Sundays, after the morning of ringing church bells. Whole families walked down the streets to the Church, girls wearing dresses and gloves, just like their mothers, men with hats, and suits and ties. Almost everyone went to church and afterward you came home to your big Sunday dinner and the readying for Monday—schoolwork, newspapers, clothes laid out, shoes polished.

We knew all of the neighbors and the houses around our block, and the stories they held. We knew the house where the woman had hung herself in the basement because her husband went out with other women. We knew the house where the poker parties were held on Saturday nights. Sometimes there was a special game on Friday night and you knew because of all the cars parked in the alley.

After supper you had to eat your desert inside, before going out. You couldn’t walk out with a Popsicle unless you had more to give your friends. And you ate your Twinkies inside, or out on the back porch.

stanisław wyspiański (1869-1907), portrait of józio feldman, 1905, pastel (national museum in kraków, poland)

stanisław wyspiański (1869-1907), portrait of józio feldman, 1905, pastel (national museum in kraków, poland)

Snowed In

Wishes do come true, in their time, in their fashion.

aslice of life

A Slice Of Life

Although here in reality it’s not at all as in the photo. Yet the snow is beautiful, and constant. A true winter story.

This is more a scene from my childhood when everything was larger, and grander, and closer. Yet I am certain that the snow and the seasons were much more intense and bountiful those many years ago. There is in fact an old black and white photo of my aunt standing in front of a snow pile that was well over 10′ tall. It was taken in Fargo, ND. We took and kept the photo for posterity. It’s somewhere in a box from many moves remaining unpacked. Waiting—I suppose—for posterity to arrive.

Merry Christmas

              …From The Past

artisticNature2

Artistic Nature

Yes. Dropped from the sky, a vision of the past. In my past my grandfather was an engineer on the Great Northern Railroad. I was quite proud of that. At every railroad track where we were required to wait while the train rumbled past, we watched carefully and hollered out, “There’s one!” at every Great Northern car that passed.

In Doctor Zhivago (the movie) a train carrying Trotsky goes rumbling past at great speed while the whistle screamed. It was breathtaking.

Trains were the arteries of the past, pumping magic and mystery along with the great turning wheels and screeching brakes. Every child dreamed of jumping onboard one of the open cars to be carried like a bum onto the next town. In my dreams sometimes I still see a railroad station where I stand, waiting for the next zephyr to come screaming down to take me somewhere, somewhere as yet unseen. And it’s always snowing, sometimes for Christmas.

Bridges & Photos & Poems

Crossing the Mississippi River from La Crescent, Minnesota, into La Crosse, Wisconsin.downtown-la-crosse-13-bridge-across-mississippi-riverThis photo posted by Audrey Kletscher Helbling on her blog, Minnesota Prairie Roots.

The bridge on the left is my bridge, the one we walked across to get from our place along the Mississippi river to the other side. Pettibone Park and the swim beach awaited there. In the park there was also a lagoon where we ice skated in winter.

The bridge on the right, the smaller bridge, was added a few years back so now each is oneway. I was shocked to see the added bridge the last time I was home. The bridges are not the same color and certainly do not match in style. What offense to my childhood!

The erasure poem posted here on March 7, 2014, is about the bridge and river and sand. It’s about this bridge and a child’s feet that walked there with the past and the future, singing with the ghosts of time.