One of my fondest childhood memories is of Grandma’s enormous feather bed. As a child, my brother and I used to play on its lumpy mattress, and since I was too small to climb up on my own, my brother would get down on all fours and let me climb up his strong back to the towering bed. The bed seemed to eat you up. I would lie on my back on the puffy white comforter that smelled of violets, rose petals, and duck fluff. There were times that we couldn’t see each other because we would each be into the many layers.
One time I was lying on my back when the feathers shifted and I pulled myself up. I began to scream out of fear and cry from frustration, all because I couldn’t free myself from the bed’s grip, and to add injury to insult, my brother sprained his arm while leaping off the bed too fast as he ran to tell Grandma that I was stuck. This happened often; my brother and I were captivated in more ways than one by Grandma and Grandpa’s feather bed.
An obsession we had at Grandma’s was of her oatmeal bread. She would bake two loaves; one for my brother and me, and one for her and Grandpa. There has never been bread like Grandma’s. To a kid, the forty minutes it took to bake seemed like hours. Every five minutes we would holler out, wondering if the bread was done, and she would always answer with what seemed were the only words she knew when it was bread baking time: Shoo, you two!
When the bread finally emerged from the oven, we knew it must be what heaven smells like. Oaten, buttery, nutty, and brown-sugary with a heaping helping of Grandma Love, spoken as we would sit and wait for it to cool. Due to our impatience, she would always cut it before it was ready; it would be a little squished but it didn’t affect the heavenly taste.
We once had a collision with the bed and the bread. There was only one rule that my brother and I had to obey at Grandma’s, and that was no food on her feather bed. I don’t know if you have ever smelled feathers that have been in contact with anything moist, but believe me, you don’t want to know.
We were each eating our half a loaf when the doorbell beckoned Grandma away from us. Mrs. Jackson, the next door neighbor, knew that my brother and I loved her biscuits and jam. Kindness, and a little competitive baker’s envy compelled her to whip up a plate and bring it over. As Grandma and Mrs. Jackson stood outside gossiping about the latest news down at the post office, my brother took off with all the bread, including my half, snatched right out of my hands.
I soon was chasing him and squealing in mock anger, but he only laughed and ran into Grandma’s bedroom. I couldn’t believe he was in the room with the bed and the bread! I cornered him and lunged for the precious loaf, but as I did my brother shot past and climbed onto the feather bed. He knew I couldn’t get up there on my own. I jumped, I ran, I pulled at the comforter in a desperate bid to try to slide him off onto the ground, but he hung on. He dug in, right in the middle of the bed, where I could only see the top of his head. I could hear him chewing until he heard Grandma’s footsteps coming into the room. He hid the soft warm bread in the stuff hole of the feather bed. He jumped down as fast as he could as we both looked at Grandma very innocently. She asked what we were up to, but we both walked passed her and didn’t say a word, ashamed of what my brother had done. I felt somehow that it was my fault as well.
The next time we went to Grandma’s, we noticed a butter stain on her comforter. She sat my brother and me down and she told us that Grandpa wasn’t allowed to sleep in the feather bed anymore. He had been naughty. She said Grandpa had taken a piece of oatmeal bread with butter and had put it in the feathers and all over the comforter and it smelled like dead ducks. Grandpa came in with his sleeping bag. “I can’t sleep in the big feathered bed no more. Grandma said that I made it smell bad.” They both managed to conceal from us the subtle smiles on their faces.
My brother’s shoulders started to move up and down as tears the size of raindrops ran down his cheeks. Once my brother lost it, I started wailing and sobbing. We confessed everything and told them we felt so bad for Grandpa, but Grandma chuckled, saying she knew the whole time; she just wanted us to tell her ourselves.
She hugged us both and told us she still wasn’t going to let Grandpa sleep in the bed, “because he makes the bed smell bad anyway.” From then on the most delicious treat in the world was called Feather Bed Oatmeal Bread.
Feather Bed Oatmeal Bread
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups water
1 ¾ cups quick oats
1 package quick rise yeast
½ cup warm water
½ tbsp salt
3 cups of whole wheat flour
4 to 5 cups of unbleached flour
Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil and dissolve your brown sugar and butter in the boiling water. Once everything is dissolved, pour this mixture over your oats. Stir well and let the oatmeal mixture cool to lukewarm.
Put your yeast in the ½ cup warm water and stir until dissolved. Next add the yeast mixture to the cooled oatmeal mixture.
Take the 3 cups of whole wheat flour and the salt and combine it with the oatmeal and yeast mixture with your electric mixer.
Next add the unbleached flour a cup at a time to your oatmeal/whole wheat mixture until the dough isn’t sticky. This should be done by hand and not by mixer. Do not knead it. Place the mixture in a covered bowl and let rise for about 1 hour.
Split dough up into three equal parts, shape into 3 loaves and place into greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise, about double in size, for about one more hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter.
Make sure to keep it away from the feather bed.
Beth McCain lives in beautiful Oregon with her husband, Lee and their four children. Beth and Lee are published authors in an array of genres.
Both Beth and Lee are instructors and lecturers in applying the Law of Attraction in everyday life.
For more information, please visit: www.bethandleemccain.com