I stir the pot in front of me, watching the yellowed carrots and parsnip twirl around in the wake of the ladle. I offer up prayers to Jesus, laying down heavy burdens as I stir. Knowing that there is a paper waiting to be started in the other room but my soul needs this chicken soup instead.
I pick each piece of meat off the cooled bones and drop it into the broth. Growing up, I remember her doing it so well. We would wait anxiously for the pot of soup on the stove, her famous chicken noodle soup. Each time it was a bit different, with a little more carrots or a few more noodles, whatever was found in the pantry. But each time it tasted like only her soup could. I wrote down the recipe the first time I moved away, on a faded pink index card tucked into my recipe box. But recipes made with a pinch o’ this and a pinch ‘o that never could be written down.
When that Crack in our family appeared so long ago, a lot of things washed away in the aftermath. A lot of dreams sifted away. And so did the memories – even the good ones – because somehow they were marked with a Loss now, too.
Years later – sometimes they slip back in. Sometimes it’s the feel of a chocolate milk container that brings me back to when I was five. Sometimes it’s the feel of chicken beneath my bare fingers, bringing me back to cool winter nights and a mother’s famous soup.
I make that soup my own way now. I add parsnips and rice and my own concoction of spices I find in my cabinets. The pink index card with my scrawl and her words rests inside my recipe box, and I make the soup with a little bit of soul and a little bit of hope. Sometimes murmured prayers, too.
And the thing I’ve learned about memories is sometimes they have a way of finding their way back to us. Sometimes it’s years later, when you think you’ve tucked them back into the recesses of your mind where it doesn’t hurt so much. Maybe those memories are just waiting, waiting for the time when you’ll hold them precious again. Waiting ’til your heart’s a little more healed so you hold them close, let the tears go, and remember –
the warmth of the wood stove, smell of soup in the nearby kitchen. Cracked and scarred wooden floors beneath running feet. Blankets nestled over the floor’s vents, heat trapped to warm up cold bodies. Fallen Christmas trees anchored to the wall.
Somehow they all hurt a little less with a pot of chicken soup on the stove,
made with just the right amount of soul and a little bit of hope.