Years ago, my bread maker shimmied off the counter during a particularly rigorous mixing session. Its plug ripped from the outlet as gravity took over and the machine toppled to the floor. The crash brought me running to the kitchen, where I saw it laying in a twisted heap, tipped on its side and badly bent. The lid would no longer close; I was sure its bread-making days were over.
I spoke to my dad on the phone later that day and told him the story.
He told me to bring it over; he would have a look at it. My dad was a tinkerer, a fixer of all that was broken. He would putter and nudge and he always had “a little something that might do the job” in his garage. His workbench was lined with glass jars filled with nails and bolts and other fasteners that I might simply call “do-hickeys.” His garage was home to stray bits of wood and paint and varnish and tubes of glue and tins of sealant, scattered among the seasonal decorations and yard tools. It was cool and tidy; it was one of his happy places.
David went with my dad to the garage where “having a look at the bread maker” involved pounding it back into shape with a hammer. The lid never did fully close again, but he bullied it back into shape enough so that I could bake a loaf if I needed to – though from that point on I used it mostly for making dough.
The bread maker became a story we told. Every once in while he asked about it, wondered how it was working. I can picture him pounding away at it in the dim garage, surrounded by his bags of top soil and bird seed. I think of him every time I pull the bread maker out; the crooked top makes me smile.
A few weeks ago, I made a batch of dough and it came out of the pan streaked with some sort of black and grey grease. Normally, I would have called him to see if he had any ideas about how to fix it. Instead, I turned to Google and discovered that the gear under the paddle is likely wearing down, so the grease comes up the shaft and gets on the dough. The bread maker is old, so it would likely be hard – and expensive – to find parts.
Realizing that this time it was broken beyond repair, I tried to throw it away. I wrapped the cord around its bulk and set it on the floor beside the garbage can in the kitchen. Garbage day came and went, and yet when I changed the bag, I left the bread maker on the floor beside the can. I couldn’t bring myself to take it outside.
The other day I resolved to try to fix it. I am my father’s daughter, of course, so maybe – one more time – I could fix it.
I picked it up and cleaned it again, scraping and rubbing with toothpicks and rolled up paper towels. I removed every piece of crud, every trace of grime – yet every batch I tried showed a smudge of greyish grease at the bottom of each ball of dough.
I cried at the thought of throwing it away. I felt sad and ridiculous in equal parts as I reached for tissue to blow my nose. I don’t have the space to keep broken appliances hanging around forever. Is this how hoarding begins? I can hear his voice in my head saying, “Oh for God’s sake, don’t be so foolish” before he told me to throw it away.
I’m no psychologist, but I know this isn’t about an appliance. Somehow, throwing the bread maker away feels like saying goodbye to my dad all over again. It’s a tangible reminder of his life, his help, his love, and I don’t want to let it go.
It feels like the end of the story, and I don’t want it to end. So I am sharing the story here – the story of the bread maker, twice broken, and of my dad, who we believed could fix everything.