I believe in chicken soup, made from scratch. I’m sitting here lulled by the aroma of the freshly chopped ingredients boiling in my kitchen – carrots, onion, celery, and chicken cooking with a handful of rosemary and thyme I cut from my garden. The smell makes me feel like a kid, snug on the couch with book and blanket, freed from school by one of my many childhood illnesses. It was a warm feeling, especially comfortable once the actual time to leave for school had passed and mom had officially declared me home for the day. Able to stay in pajamas and do what I wanted as long as I didn’t look well, which would mean getting sent in for a half-day, I would curl up with a book – any book, but preferably Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, or my favorite section of the World Book Encyclopedia, the one with stories from around the world.
Okay, I was a nerd. But I loved to read, and do to this day. Even with five kids, I have a book in my hand any time I have five minutes to myself. They’ve been sick this week, and my oldest has been begging for chicken soup. She loves it, and professes to love mine above all. What mom needs more prompting than that? So even though I’m bone-tired after a weekend with a hospitalized infant, I gladly buy the ingredients, taking the time to find the little pasta stars they prize in every spoonful.
I wash vegetables, slicing peeling chopping. I cut chicken with my favorite shears, so sharp I’m always afraid I’ll cut through one of my fingers along with a chicken bone. All the while little voices buzz around me, “Why are you doing that momma? What’s that for momma? Eeeew, do we have to eat that part of the chicken? Gross! Her hands are in the chicken’s butt!” And then it’s all in the pot and everyone has to get up on the stool to see what it looks like before the lid goes on. Once it’s boiling I skim the foam like the recipe says, though I have no idea why, put the lid on and set the timer.
Now I can sit. The kids are in bed. Tomorrow I’ll finish the soup, mining each bit of meat from the bones and chopping more vegetables, adding just the right amount of pasta then throwing in a handful more because I never think I’ve added enough. We’ll sit and eat together for dinner, and I already know how I’ll feel. I will feel, as I do with each performance of this ritual, that I have done something, some tangible bit of love for these little people who are my life. I have made something for them that comforts, gives the feeling that they will be healed from their coughs and aches and sore throats, and I have done it. I am the mom. I am the chicken soup maker.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.