July 20, 2020
By Arthur H. Gunther III
There seems a steady rhythm these days living amongst the restrictions of the time of virus, whether it be the gift of simplicity in just not doing much at home, sitting in a chair thinking or reading, perhaps tea at some hour, a cookie or fruit with that; this routine repeated daily — a steady rhythm. It can keep you sane.
In the breakfast program where I cook in the great quiet of a large 1865 building these virus days, having a bit of guilt but not much about being alone, for there surely is music in solitude, I have found a steady rhythm, too, in making grilled cheese.
I am at about the 1,000 mark on these sandwiches, part of a breakfast kept warm for those who come after I am gone. The right hand that does the flipping has its own rhythm, as expected but different for the individual, my own modified because of some arthritis.
But it is in the making of these sandwiches — the arranging of many slices of bread on a big surface, the pulling of sliced cheese from commercial bricks, that there is real rhythm — piecework as it were.
There is great order in that — lay out the bread, peel off the cheese slices, put a top on the sandwich. Odd, but accomplishment, so very ordinary, absolutely nothing difficult but there it is.
And for this writer, as always in the village of my youth, my father’s, back to my grandparents, a connection. Moons ago, my mother — now I know she was a sainted one though she chased me with a broom — was on piecework herself as a small-parts assembler at the Briarcraft Smoking Pipe factory where my grandfather was foreman. She was paid by the piece, so she didn’t tarry, though she had to be careful to avoid rejects.
Today, just streets away from what was Briarcraft, I, too, am paid by the piece, each grilled cheese sandwich going into a hungry stomach. Hope I do not offer many rejects.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org