“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Tess arrived two days after Ann’s daughter was born with warm banana bread in one hand and a dozen red roses in the other. Tess wasn’t much for hugs or kisses and I love you showed far too much weakness. Tess was many things but never vulnerable. She was never brought to her knees in love or heartache, grief or anguish. And if Tess had, no one was witness to it. Food meant love. And flowers? I’m thinking of you. Happy Birthday. Congratulations. I’m proud of you. I love you but I’ll never tell you. Ann understood this about her mother. She didn’t mind Tess’ peculiarities about love.
Ann hugged Tess harder than usual feeling her breasts now engorged with milk and nipples raw and tender press against her mother’s own aging breasts.
[Breasts that eleven years later would turn against her, forming cancer that Tess ignored, eating her body, mind, and soul a bit each day. Days turned into weeks into months, months into years, an act of war leaving open wounds that could not heal for those that loved her.}
Mae, still pink from birth with bits of patchy Neanderthal hair on one shoulder and perfect rose-colored lips, cooed from the other room summoning the women to attend to her. Tess picked her up and held her with such tenderness Ann felt like crying. Ann blamed postpartum hormones on the tears forming but never coming to fruition. And yet she knew the tears were more than hormones. Watching her mother become so accessible to this child made her heart hurt. Ann could not bare to watch them interact any longer and then Tess asked Mae: “I wonder what your purpose will be?”
Ann thinks of this now as she sits with Tess who is covered in afghans because she can’t get warm enough. Tissues fill the basket next to the tattered chair she cannot leave and half of a banana sits on the side table next to Tess which Tess promises to eat…later. Ann watches her mother’s swollen belly move with each breath, bandages from Tess’ now concave breast peak outside from the top of her shirt. She notices Tess’ hair, the perm she always had now faded. She listens to Tess repeat herself over and over while trying to draw out the woman she once knew. Ann manages to find Tess again simply by asking: where is your banana bread recipe?
St. John Banana Bread
Makes 1 9x5x3 inch loaf
Recipe handed down by my grandmother and slightly adapted by me
½ or 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 cups of sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ raw sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I did not use them.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour the loaf pan and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice with a spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of raw sugar. Bake until golden brown or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool remove the bread from the loaf pan. Slice and serve. Enjoy!
**Once cool wrap bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also freeze this bread until ready to use. Be sure to defrost overnight. **
5 Must Try Banana Bread Links
If you are looking for a few interesting twists to banana bread head to the Wall St. Journal for recipes like coffee-hazelnut banana bread or black sesame coconut banana cake with white sesame cream.
Nutella lovers everywhere must check out Zoe Bakes Nutella swirled banana bread.
This banana bread recipe is one of King Arthur Flour’s recipe of 2018.
Chocolate and banana are one of my favorite combinations. Head to Pastry Affair for chocolate cacao nib banana bread recipe that is sure not to disappoint.