My grandmother had a little side business baking angel food cakes. She used to send me to the creamery, which was right up the street and around the corner from her house. I didn’t have to cross a single street, so I could go alone, the coins in my pocket to pay for the eggs that waited for me.
If Mrs. Mullins (my grandmother) had a big cake order in, the ladies at the creamery set aside the very best eggs (or the ones they deemed were the very best) for her. They were always in a special place in a box, right by the window, a slip of paper tucked in among the carefully stacked selections.
I carried everything home in a great big woven basket, and I never broke a single egg. I wouldn’t have dared. The cake business would have staggered under the loss.
The creamery was a fascinating place, too. All the farmers sent in their eggs in bulk, and that’s where they were candled, graded, sized, etc. I used to watch it all for hours at a stretch. I was welcomed, too, mostly by room being made for me, and whatever chair I could find. I always just sat there between two great big Indiana women, while they talked, their eyes never moving from the work they were doing.
I thought I could eventually work at the creamery, in my own cotton summer dress with the white apron tied over the front. I said something to my grandmother, who replied, “It sounds fine to me, but your mother might have other ideas.”
There is still something reassuring to me about the low hum of conversation exchanged by women as they are working, and the almost invisible way a child can be incorporated into the cadence of what they’re doing.