I like a day that starts out cool and ends up cool but warms in the middle. I like a day when the light changes so fast you feel dizzy, and I don’t mind that evening comes before you expect it, and that the surprisingly deep cool shadows bewilder you with their soft blue sledgehammer. I like that the changes in the light and the warmth gently bruise you with anticipation and regret. I like a late-summer day.
On several of these warm-middle-of-the-day days lately we’ve gone to see Malcolm’s cross country meets. In the ever-increasing list of things that make me weepy, this would be right near the top. The event begins with groups of teenagers from different high schools milling about, warming up and chattering and organizing themselves. What’s the collective noun for a group of teenagers? A contrariness of teenagers? An insecurity of teenagers? Except that they don’t seem insecure, these teenagers, these stars of track and field. They seem sunny and happy and enviably comfortable in themselves. And though they’re chatty and cheerful before the race, when they’re running they’re so serious and focused, in a world by themselves. The face of each one of them, the ones I know and the ones I don’t, just knock me out with the glowing beauty of their intensity. They’re all so vulnerable and so strong, whether they sprint across the finish line or walk across it long after everyone else has finished. They’re all doing something I have never done and could never do.
The first race was on a hot hot day, and Malcolm passed us, sweating and clutching his side, before puking his way across the finish line, never breaking his stride. Well! I wanted go to him, of course I did, but he’s fourteen and was surrounded by his friends. The next race was far from home, much farther than we expected, in a land of dairy farms, small strip malls, vacant buildings. By the time we arrived the day had cooled. Bright clouds and black vultures circled overhead and the darkly purple clouds on the edges of the fields piled high and deep. Behind us the yellow fluorescent glow of empty high school hallways was strange and familiar. It felt like rain but it didn’t rain. David and Isaac and I were tired and hungry and thinking about the long ride home. After the race they ran some more, a cool-down run. And after all of this running, when we got to the car Malcolm took off again, by himself, to find a feather he’d seen in the woods during the race. It felt like a long while later that he came back over the hill, running, clutching a huge beautiful tattered brown and black feather, as if he could take off flying.
I got us lost on the way home in the maze of small houses with Trump signs on small lawns, making the long ride even longer. By the time we got back it was dark. The boys and David set the table outside and lit the lamp, and I walked to get the pizza. The moment I got home the rain came, but we sat outside anyway, under our umbrella in the glow of our lamp, with our two bright boys, collecting any little bits of information about the first weeks of school they would let slip.
Yesterday Malcolm informed me that we were going to make these, and I was more than happy to oblige! I made a soft, sweetish dough and let it rise while David and Malcolm were off spray painting furniture. While these were cooking Malcolm helped me make dinner. I haven’t cooked with him in a while, and I forgot how fun it is. Anyway! It was Malcolm’s idea to put apple cider in the glaze, and he made it himself, and they turned out delicious! If I made them again, I’d probably add some cider to the dough itself, as well.
Here’s Stars of Track and Field, by Belle and Sebastian
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/3 cup warm water
4 T butter
1/3 cup milk
1 t vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 cups +/- flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
6 T soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
In a large bowl combine the yeast, 1 t sugar and the warm water. Let sit about ten minutes until frothy. Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter until the butter is just melted, then set aside to cool slightly.
Add egg and vanilla and brown sugar to the yeast and stir to combine. Mix in the milk and butter. Add flour, cinnamon and salt. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. I used about 3 1/4 cups, but I’m not a very precise measurer when it comes to yeasted doughs! It should be soft but not too sticky. Knead for a couple of minutes, then return to the bowl and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size…about two hours.
Preheat the oven to 375
Lightly flour a counter or table and roll out the dough to be about ten inches by eighteen inches (or whatever fits on your counter). Mix the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together and spread it over the dough.
Roll it all up lengthwise, keeping it pretty tight, but not squishing the heck out of it.
Cut it into inch-long segments or thicker or thinner if you want.
Butter an 8 or 9 inch cake tin. Set the pinwheels inside, spacing them fairly evenly, but leave a little room, because they’ll expand.
Let them sit while the oven preheats, and prepare…the glaze
3 T butter
1/2 cup sugar
big dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup apple cider
Mix everything together and warm in a small saucepan over low heat. You want the sugar to melt, but don’t let it boil to strong or too long or it will harden when it cools.
When then oven is preheated, bake the buns for 25 – 30 minutes. About 15 minutes in, pour the glaze over the top. It’s done when it’s puffed and starting to brown.
Let cool till you can touch it, and then eat!