Mom never understood the bread.
I could see a little bit of disappointment, a little at a time. It was like a ship appearing on the horizon. It's just a speck at first. You can't know how big it is until it gets close to shore. Mom was proud of me when I was young, because my friends were all hanging out doing nothing on the corner --or worse-- and I was working like a man. But as the months turned to years, the ship of her disappointment hove into view. The tonnage of it up close was formidable.
Disappointment is not shame, nor anything like it. She thought I could do more with myself, is all. Lawyer. Doctor. General. Something where there would be a newspaper clipping or two she could show to the neighbors. That's my boy. That's all she wanted. An affirmation.
But the baguettes came out of that hot hole in the wall the first time, and I was hooked. I was never allowed to do much except sweep the floor at first, and carry the sacks of meal. But I knew right away. I knew I could never get away from the smell of it, the wondrous feeling of the flour on my hands, the heat like the sun on a rock at the beach all day long.
I loved it; and so the fellows that did it with a grunt and a sneer for money could never compete with me. They'd go home five minutes early and grumble while I'd go by on my day off and help out and smile. I am their lord and master now. By acclamation. Let him do it; he'll do it anyway. And the owner's son, dissipated and snarling, didn't last a month. I'm the real son. I'll save my little all and buy it when the old man goes; or he'll give it to me, because he wants his idea to keep going, and his own boy has other ideas.
I bring it home and lay it on the table, and Mom murmurs her grudging assent. A man decides for himself. At least he's a man, she thinks. And the bread is the food of angels; but still.
Mom will have to go without, because many will never ask why they raised a statue to me; it has to be enough that a few will ask why they didn't, when we are all gone.