This is not exactly a Let Them Eat Bread report, which chronicles my project of giving away at least one loaf of bread each week in 2011, but this post does involve a loaf of bread that I gave away last night and the events that rippled around it. Each month, my library—Charles M. Bailey Public Library—hosts an author’s night where various Maine writers come to read from their books and to talk about their work. Among others, I have heard Brock Clarke and Gerry Boyle, both of whom are terrific speakers. Last night, Susan Hand Shetterly, a very fine nature writer, was the featured author.
The program was to start at 6:30, and I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to make a loaf of bread for Richard, the library’s director. (I’ve already given a loaf to Shane, and my plan is to give a loaf to all the librarians and the assistants.) So I duly made bread, using part unbleached flour and part whole wheat pastry flour, the latter of which actually comes from Maine. (I’ll soon have to post my revised bread recipe. It really is a good one.)
At 6:15, I walked into the library, and the loaf of bread I carried was still so warm that I had to leave the plastic bag open so moisture wouldn’t accumulate. With warm bread comes a wonderful smell. As I handed the bread to Richard, who took it without hesitation, Mike Sienko, whom I work with at the Food Pantry, said, “You can put me on your bread list.” Perhaps I will.
Mary Sturtevant, another patron who was there for the reading, emerged from the stacks saying, “What a great smell!” I’ve known Mary for many years, and I’m thinking she should be on my bread list, too.
In the periodical room (reading room?) chairs were set up for the speaker. I sat down, and Lorraine Ravis, whom I hadn’t seen for years, sat down beside me. Her daughter Lisa and my daughter Shannon were chums in school, and we spent a pleasant 15 minutes or so catching up on news. Around 6:30, a worried looking Shane came in and announced that Susan Hand Shetterly hadn’t arrived, that he had called her publicist, who was positive Shetterly was planning to come to the reading. Everyone in the audience decided to wait another 15 minutes. I chatted some more with Lorraine, and there was the friendly buzz of conversation as other people talked as well. Richard, who hadn’t had dinner, tore into the warm bread.
At 6:45, Shane made another announcement. Shetterly still hadn’t arrived, and they couldn’t reach her on her cell phone. We all decided to wait until 7:00, just in case. More conversation. But at 7:00, there was still no author, and we all concluded that for some reason, she wasn’t going to come. Shane, in his usual kind way, expressed the hope that Shetterly had just forgot about the reading, that she hadn’t been in some kind of accident. We all nodded.
Then a funny thing happened. Most of us stayed until 7:30 or so, carrying on with our conversations. When we finally got up to leave, Mary Sturtevant said, “Well, Susan Hand Shetterly didn’t show up, but I had a good time anyway.”
I did, too, staying until 8:00 to talk with Shane and Richard. While both were naturally disappointed that Shetterly didn’t make it to the reading, they were tickled that the patrons had had such a good time anyway.
Many of us who came to the reading have lived in Winthrop for years and years and are at least casually acquainted. When residents of a small town have this kind of history with each other, a warm, comfortable familiarity often develops, and this sense of community is what makes living in a small town so worthwhile. Richard and Shane, both young enough to be my sons, have done much to encourage this sense of community, and how lucky we are to have them at the library. (And, yes, having lived in small towns all of my life, I am aware of how grudges and resentments can simmer in small towns. This, too, is part of the mix.)
Warm bread, a drizzly evening, a group of townspeople who know each other, an author who didn’t show up. Just another night in a small town in central Maine, a night that will be fondly remembered.
Addendum: As it turned out, Susan Hand Shetterly has a poor memory and did forget that she was supposed to come to Winthrop. She called Richard this morning to apologize and to assure him that she wants to reschedule. I’ll be there, and I expect most everyone else who came last night will be there as well.