My Baba with the Babushka

My Baba with Babushka

Comforting aroma of fresh bread
beaten, kneaded, punched down
frustration of monotonous existence
Sticky dough serves as punching bag for emotions
allayer of mood

Metallic tang of well water
dipped from pail on counter
smacks of earthiness and strength
necessary to draw it forth
to sustain others
How many pails have you hauled in your lifetime?
Buckets balanced in each hand
scales of impartiality measuring judgment in your mind?
Sloshing, spilling despite effort to save each precious drop
Water for washing, drinking, cooking
lever pulled and pushed
pumped up and down
brought back and forth
dogs nip at heels
white geese with orange beaks
honk indignantly as you cross their path
oblivious to your resentment with this plodding, repetitious task

Sweat on brow
hard working hands
calloused, hardened from toil in
garden and field
yet soft and welcoming
ready to lift and embrace
a teary tot or boisterous child

Mother Goose apron
fashioned from flour and potato sacks
full of seeds
or hand picked eggs
fresh from chicken coop nest
warm to touch
fodder for family meals
base of nutrition

Surrounded by relatives
Baba quietly goes about her business
stirring pots and pans
on wood burning stove
As she listens to conversations
raucous children
scurry about like
field mice underfoot
dart here and there
rustle her skirts
swishing movement
as little hands grab food
off the table
before dashing back outside
wooden door swinging in their wake

She patches clothes
sews patterns
in a mud chinked room
lit by kerosene lamp
electricity a luxury that she did not enjoy
until late in her life;
labours long after dark
heavy breathing, soft snores of family
nocturnal accompaniments
for this tiresome composition she is
performing

Ukrainian accent held in check
broken English strange on the tip
of her Slavic tongue
hair held in check
by her dark babushka
sombre color
an echo of her
dispirited mood
stray locks of hair
attempting freedom
are pushed back
with weary hands

Her family grows
one by one leaving her behind
to pump water
and knead bread

Returning with their own families on weekends
a growing brood gathers
continue to drink metallic water
continue to eat fresh baked bread
flour dust clouds
hide
Storm gathering behind Baba’s eyes

While the world progresses around her
her environment remains bleak and unevolved
pump and hold
pump and hold
pump
and
hold

Dimly lit
slowly fading
until one day

She leaves

She walks away
Her shift is done

She enters a home
for seniors
for those unable to care for themselves
for those unwilling to care for others

Some say she snapped
call her crazy
cuckoo-nana

She grew tired
this beautiful “Aunt Jemima” Baba of mine
Tired of serving others
Tired of the well
Tired of the back and forth, up and down,
punching and kneading

It was time for her to be served
and that’s how it was
until she passed away
No more time on her primitive farm
Her sentence had been served

 

One thought on “My Baba with the Babushka

  1. Meghan says:

    Your Baba sounds like she was a hard worked and hard-working woman who clearly was at the heart of your family. I am glad you kept her close to your heart, and I think your Baba knows it. This is a lovely, respectful memorial.

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