“Thirty years from now,” Gailie said, studying the Ceres Bakery Christmas Party photo, “When we look at this, it will be like our kindergarten class. We will remember each person.” We nodded then—but she was right. That photo captured a singular moment in our lives, one that was far more profound than we believed at the time. Then, we were just… happy. I’ve been thinking about this time a great deal later, partly because one of my dear friends from that time came out to visit.
Working at Ceres Bakery was a good job. The pay was good, we had health insurance with excellent maternity care (our boss had her two girls while I was working there), free food, a very flexible schedule that allowed all of us to take months off to travel at least once while I worked there, an old pizza oven to lean on on cold mornings, and people loved and respected our work. We fed the community, every day. We worked hard, but there was conversation, and laughter, and support, and warm chocolate chip cookies, cut into pieces to share. We were strong and healthy; I loved to haul out the fifty pound bags of oatmeal (which look like one hundred pound bags of flour) and dump them into the big storage buckets.
Everyone who worked at Ceres was in some sort of transition. We had mostly graduated from college with liberal arts degrees—Art and English were very common. It was, for the most part, pre-crushing student debt. We were in our twenties. Some of us were married, others had boyfriends, others were working out relationship issues, but the men did not dominate our lives. They were there—at home. Not at work. Some of us were thinking of going back to school; I actually did for my last year of work. For the most part, we did not own houses, but lived in various apartments around town and moved as our relationship status changed. We gardened in small spaces. In the summer, we went hiking and swam in the Atlantic Ocean at twilight, when the beach was empty; in winter, we learned to knit, read, sewed, held Craft Nights that lasted until three AM, and shared food. In all seasons, we met at the Bakery before starting out on any adventure and we fled to the Bakery in times of crisis or boredom. The back door was always open. We all spent hours sitting on the back counter or a flour bin, talking, talking, talking. We had time.
And the time….time is what made those years profound, in retrospect. We had time, and support, to figure out where we were going to go next, what we valued, and where our adult lives were headed. It is no coincidence that some many of us still cook, grow much larger gardens, paint our houses vibrant colors, sport a vintage design esthetic, and work to create a more beautiful world. We figured that all out on our long hours in that small, hot space, talking. There was time. We had time.
This is the key, I believe, to a happy adult life—time while you are figuring things out. One friend from that era, who had her son at 16, said “You get your freedom young—or you get it when you are older. I’m getting mine late.” She was ok with that—but I think we have stronger, healthier, happier lives if we take that time while we are young, before we have serious relationships, and children, and big jobs, and mortgages, and older parents, and all of the things that I have now that I cannot run out on to take time to find out who I am now. Because I had the time when I was younger, I know. And I remember on long hikes in the woods in summertime, when I have time once again.
So, when you are working behind a counter and someone your own age says “Haven’t you graduated yet?” implying that you should be doing something more important with your life, just smile. You are living the questions, finding the answers, and, when it is time, will be ready. They, on the other hand, will be balding, driving a red sports car, and hitting on people half their ages.