My father has spent most of my life, and before (sometimes called “B.K.”), trying to find something equivalent to German bread in the States. After striking out in stores and bakeries, he began baking his own by using his mother’s recipe. For years I was the girl who had peanut butter and jelly with homemade bread in my school lunches. None of my friends really understood how I could eat “just” cheese on my sandwiches and no deli meats. It was a traumatic time. However, my dad struggled with keeping his bread fresh, making it crispy enough, and countless other problems. Each week he tried tweaking things a bit differently, but he wasn’t ever satisfied. After I had graduated and gone to college, he discovered a local man who built his own wood-fired ovens and was active in the community to get local organizations and restaurants to do the same. My father spent three months reading his book and planning to dismantle our beautiful “tree house” to turn the space into his bakery (the house was built on stilts, because although there were fifteen trees in our yard, none were sufficient to hold a house). Finally, he did it. It took him only three days, using clay dirt from our own yard, and it was done. A wood-fired oven. It has taken him another three years to become satisfied with his bread, and if you ask me, he’s still not. But, the bread is delicious and while I still can’t bring myself to eat it with peanut butter and jelly, it makes great Tillamook cheddar cheese sandwiches. Though the best is eating it fresh from the oven – it is an experience of delectable melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Out of this oven has come other wonders – including the quite black-looking yet still raw on the inside French Bread Fiasco (the oven was hotter than we thought). My parent’s first experiment in making pizza turned into what they baptized “Pizza Scramble.” On the flip side, we have made many an excellent Julia Child pork roast as well as baked string beans and many other casseroles and pies. By now, my dad has pizza down pat. So when our friends Libby and Jerry came down from Washington this week, we thought we’d invite one of my dad’s colleagues, Myles, and have a pizza party. And what a party it was! Myles, a rugby player, told us about how he loves cricket for the pims and the fact that rain causes a draw. He couldn’t understand why people respected the last batter who could stall for five hours. The only part he thought was worth watching in the World Cup was when Zenadine Zidan head-butted the Italian (“Finally there was action!”). He wants to turn my dad’s backyard oven into a pizza empire and sell “Bearcat Pizza” at the Willamette football games. He promised to be the bearcat mascot.
One of my first real interactions with Myles (besides being present at an Easter egg hunt in which he rooted for the three-year-old boy and taught him high-fives and cheers) was a cello jam session. My cello teacher, also a professor at Willamette, had arranged quartets for celli while in college at Oberlin and pulled them out once during my lesson. He invited Myles as well as a retired computer science professor and amateur cellist. It was a great time, and while I was by far the worst player in the group, I thought it was cool that I could have so much fun with people all of whom could by my father or grandfather.
A year or so later, as I was beginning my senior year of high school, Myles was at a barbecue at my house. It must have been the first day of school, and I already had pre-calculus homework. Math has never been my forté: I spent two years in Algebra II and distinctly remember as a child writing that I would be an elementary school teacher when I grew up but would get someone else to teach math. Naturally, I didn’t want to do my math homework, and I moaned and groaned about it enough that Myles picked up on it and said “It’ll take two minutes, trust me.” He coached me through my first pre-calculus assignment, and I remember him saying “The people who are going to go places with their lives will never stop until it’s graduation day.” That stuck with me the whole year, and kept me going many times when I wanted to give up and just let senioritis take over.
So when at this recent pizza party the cello came up as a topic, I jumped on the opportunity. I asked Myles if he’d be interested in babysitting mine and he kindly accepted. So, as he got back into his Ford Focus later that evening, my cello sat happily in the back seat on its way up to live in Portland for the year. As he was leaving he asked if I ever polished it. He said he polishes his every once in a while and would polish mine too. I know it will be in good hands.