It is an impulse decision to turn right instead of left. Left would have taken me to Whole Foods, but right took me to Little Portion, now Hope Academy, I correct myself, but I don’t care. It will always be Little Portion to me. I had dropped my charge off at school, and decided that I would go to Whole Foods. Normally, I go straight from one job to the next, but I had received an early morning text message informing me that my second “shift”, as it were, was now free. I needed eggs, and Whole Foods sells the cashew drink I like at a fraction of the price that Wild By Nature does. From school, Whole Foods was also not substantially out of the way.
It has been well over a year since I’d driven out to what used to be Little Portion Friary. I could never forget the way. It is the location for so many important events in my life, and its closure and new identity as Hope Academy is something that I don’t know I’ll ever resolve. I was on a good stretch of Nicholl’s Road, and traffic was moving. I’d gotten the email about this weeks’ bread offerings a few days before, and though a person with celiac receiving emails about glutenous bread is either ironic or masochistic, I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. Friday is bread day. In my pre-celiac life, when I spent semesters and summer camp sessions subsisting solely on Friary Bread, I made many pilgrimages to the bakery at Little Portion, depositing my money in the box and picking whichever loaves I thought had the most raisins, and breathing deeply. The whole downstairs of the Friary always smelled like bread, and it was as comforting to me as the scent of my mother’s old Chiropractic books. I don’t have cash, but I remember that there is a bank on the way, and the details with which I recollect this surprise me. I stop, get cash, get back on 347, and once again, drown in my thoughts of Little Portion.
I first went to Little Portion as a child with my mother, and when I came back to the church in college, Little Portion became a second home. I attended Daily Offices and Eucharist there because I didn’t want to be in my dorm room alone after the Southampton students were sent back to West Campus, twenty minutes from Little Portion. I spent my days off from Camp DeWolfe during the summer there. I found out that I had been accepted to grad school late one night in the library after the Brothers had gone to bed. I lost and found so many callings there, and it was there that Mom and I went after we found out that I didn’t have leukemia, when we wondered what my future would look like with lupus and not going back to Hawai’i. I pictured my wedding being held there, on the labyrinth, and when Little Portion ceased to exist as I had always known it, and when my Godmother died, I had no idea how to contemplate marriage. I didn’t, and don’t, want too much in terms of a wedding. I’d rather have a good party than something formal that everyone leaves from still hungry. But I wanted it at Little Portion. That can’t happen now.
I am wearing my sunglasses, but it is a bright, hot day, and I have a headache forming and re-forming behind my eyes. Proof that I am stressed, run down, and trying not to cry, no matter what I may tell myself. There are many cars in the parking lot, and workmen at the foot of the driveway laying down asphalt patches. I am surprised, though it is 10 AM, a few hours after bread has gone on sale, by how many cars there are. Anxiety radiates off me in waves, and I am glad that I am here alone as much as I hate that I am alone. I will only have to deal with my emotions, but I am not sure that I can handle them alone. I wish, not for the first time, that my ESC boss lived closer to New York. His gift for always getting me to cry–despite my disdain for crying and my insistence that I will be fine–might help me to handle the internal war being waged between my brain, my heart, and my stomach. I go into the bakery, breathe deeply out of habit, but the door has been open, and the smell of the bread has dissipated into the open air. Cinnamon Raisin, Olive Oil Rosemary, and Cranberry Sunflower. I debate getting a loaf of Cranberry, but who am I kidding? To come and not stock up on Cinnamon Raisin is akin to blasphemy, or heresy. Maybe both. I answer an older woman’s questions about the loaves, and what to do with her money, and prepare to bag my loaf when a young man, a resident of the house, comes in to say, “I was coming to bag those for you. We bag them after lunch; they’re really fresh.” I don’t mind bagging my own loaves. “Fresh is good!” I tell him.
I bag my loaves, taking pictures of the racks of fresh bread, with only a few empty spaces where loaves used to be. The labels are different. A former Brother, a friend of mine then, had written the labels when the Brothers still lived there. I had wondered about that on the way. There are men everywhere, and when I am rearranging the contents of my front seat to make room for the loaves, a few of them are debating whether the gas container that says ‘Mixed’ is really mixed. They are preparing to do yard work, and I remember all of the debates that ensued about that very subject in Hawai’i.
I don’t understand it, but everything is different. I don’t explore the grounds, but I see dumpsters in the back where I used to park, honestly that was the only visual difference. The house doesn’t look different. It might even look better. There seem to be more flowers than there had been in some time. I had gone expecting that it would hurt to see and feel “my” Little Portion so different. But when I got there, I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. This wasn’t the place that was my home away from home for so long. It was something new, something different. We have both changed, Little Portion and I. We have found new lives and new meanings, and though I will likely mourn what I lost forever, I must also rejoice to see Little Portion so alive.
This is a book that I can close. Going felt like a release, though not one easily made or accepted, it was a necessary one.
I drive to Whole Foods, and remember Sunday afternoon lunches there after Church in Little Portion’s chapel. I buy juices, a salad, and sit lost in thought as I eat. When I go to my car to drive home, I open the door and expect the scent of the sun-warmed bread to fill my senses, but it doesn’t. I drive home. I don’t know what I was looking for from this impromptu pilgrimage, and I don’t know if I found it, but with what I did find… I don’t know that I need to make another.