Just a Kolache

By Anna Mitchael

At the start of the summer I spent some time in Galveston.

I like it there. I like the architecture of the houses. I like meeting people who are locals, the way they are friendly to tourists while also looking past them because their lives, their real lives, are woven in a web with people who do not depart across the causeway on Sundays when the beach weekend is over.

Nothing is supposed to happen too fast when you’re at the beach, and mostly I took things slow. But one thing did happen in the blink of an eye. One minute I was drinking coffee and looking out to the ocean, saying to my husband that maybe I was tired of living a landlocked life. The next minute I was biting into what they call a kolache in Galveston. Just like that, my feelings reversed. I knew that come Sunday I would drive across the causeway with the other tourists returning to their landlocked nests, and I would be glad about it.

Until the moment when that dried dough stuffed with sad sausage made its way into my mouth, I had never sat down and thought about what a kolache meant to me. A kolache was just a breakfast food that I happened to enjoy. Except on those Saturday mornings before my husband and I had kids — when we woke up late and would spend maybe even an hour (what?) deciding what to eat for breakfast. By the time we decided, it was usually lunch. Sometimes we would drive to pick up kolaches in Clifton, at a now-closed bakery that had a bench in front engraved with the saying “Keep it West of West.” Those kolaches were an excuse to ride in the car together with the windows down, taking whatever the weekend might bring.

It also wasn’t just a kolache when I stopped for a box on my way to Dallas. Was it seven years ago? Or four? While I stood in line with the other people who had pulled off the highway, I remember I was holding a baby, but I have had three and so that detail, in itself, is not a marker of time. But when my baby started crying, a man way up at the front of the line turned around and waved me forward. “You get up here in front of me,” he instructed. And no one I passed while walking to the front looked like they had a problem with it. Yes, that was more than just a kolache.

“You know it’s not really a kolache?” my friend asked once. It was a winter afternoon. Her family had driven to West that morning, and I had just bitten into the last perfectly cooked pocket of dough stuffed with jalapeno sausage and cheese.

“It’s a klobasnek,” she went on.

“A what?” I asked.

“A klobasnek,” she said louder.

But seriously, y’all, I couldn’t hear her.

“Come again?” I asked one last time. And as the words came out of my mouth I had a flash of how we would be in 30 years. Maybe in her kitchen, maybe in rocking chairs, not hearing a word the other one was saying, but just hovering contentedly in the webs we’ve woven. She must have flashed to a similar scene because she started laughing. Which made me laugh. Then a little klobasnek might have fallen out of my mouth and we laughed harder, and suddenly our kids, who are growing up fast, were there asking why we were laughing.

Oh, it’s just the kolaches.

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