Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today, We Make the Soup

Good morning.

We woke Friday morning to a light dusting of snow, and we've had a constant drizzle (rain, freezing rain, and an occasional snowflake) ever since. Despite the dreary weather, the moisture is a blessing.

Matthew and I declared yesterday to be "Matthew and Mommy's Pajama Day", and after a quick trip to the grocery store in the morning, we spent the entire day inside. I got some sewing done, we played games, did puzzles, and read story books. As we enjoyed our time together, the smell of homemade chicken rice soup wafted through the house, a delightful reminder of my own childhood.

When I was seven, my mom passed away after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. For years thereafter, her mom, my grandmother Bernice, devoted a month in the spring and a month in the fall to our family. She traveled by train or bus from Manitoba to Alberta to live with us, and "get things in order". When Grandma arrived, everything was better... she did the mending, the laundry, the "deep cleaning", the cooking, and shared lots of hugs, kisses, and snuggles.

Grandma was a Polish immigrant, and struggled to care for her family in the depression years, as a farm wife in rural Manitoba, near Brandon. For the rest of her life, even in times of prosperity, nothing went to waste. She saved everything: paper grocery sacks were neatly folded and stored in a drawer along with twist ties, bits of string, wrapping paper and empty cereal boxes. She'd use these supplies to wrap the "care packages" she frequently sent to her loved ones. And, she'd fill our freezer with home baked cookies, carefully wrapped in wax paper, neatly stacked in empty cereal boxes, fastened with string.

At night, she would sit quietly mending and patching our clothes by hand. She would carefully stretch my dad's thick woolen work socks over a light bulb, and darn them with yarn. I was fascinated by her neat and tidy work, as she carefully wove the yarn over the worn spots in the heels.

Grandma baked and cooked without a recipe or measuring cups, using fresh ingredients from the garden and the butcher shop. Although I fondly remember her homemade Polish dishes (pirogies and cabbage rolls), my favorite days were those when she made soup.

Grandma would rise in the early morning, and declare, "Today, we make the soup!" By the time I was dressed and ready for school, I would find her in my father's kitchen, standing over the beginning of her homemade stock, stirring and skimming the fat from a boiling soup bone, or a whole chicken. I can still see her patiently hovering over the stove, wearing a long apron, holding a wooden spoon, with a large array of fresh vegetables and herbs on the kitchen counter beside her. By the time we arrived home from school for lunch, the kitchen was spotless, warm, and fragrant, and she served us large bowls of soup from her steaming kettle. Beef barley, chicken noodle, ham and bean, turkey vegetable... I loved them all.

Yesterday, I took the time to make soup like my Grandma did. Homemade stock, fresh herbs and vegetables, and lots of TLC. I did break down and use a recipe and measuring cups, though. As Wesley, Matthew and I sat down to eat, I thought about how much I miss my Grandma, and wished she could be with us to enjoy the savory meal. But, I was thankful that I took the time to honor her memory, and thought, "Today, we made the soup."