Month: March 2014

Thoughts While Making Chicken Noodle Soup



I cooked this afternoon, and it felt good. It was as if I found myself as I peeled and chopped. I am learning this new place in my parent’s home. No longer the child, I am now the caregiver. Lifelong roles have been ripped apart by my father’s death and my mother’s subsequent surgery.  I was the wild child; now I am the golden child, stepping up to provide care and guidance and comfort. Today I am finding purpose in creating nourishment, finding patience with the simple repetitive steps involved in cutting apart chicken and chopping carrots.  Could this be the secret behind the healing properties of chicken noodle soup? Is the salve to the soul of the cook as much of a succor to the sick as the carrots and onion in the broth? It felt right to simmer all day, despite the heat and the humidity.

I feel like I am part of a long chain of women, all learning the same lesson as the generations fade into time.  We find ourselves pouring ourselves into places we didn’t know about, oftentimes while standing in our kitchen.

Did my mother’s mother feel that way as she made us her pork and spaetzle every year?  Was she pouring love into her special recipe each time she made it for us, knowing that no one else could prepare her signature taste of German Cincinnati? The smell of sauerkraut taking over the un-airconditioned house and staying with it long into the steamy night was an integral part of summer visits.  I loved the salty taste of kraut clinging to pork, even though in my role as the family’s picky eater I adamantly refused to eat the kraut every year.  I also stubbornly refused to try her German Potato Salad. When I was in my 30’s and Dad prepared it using her recipe I was blown away by the tantalizing blend of flavors. Now when I break out the recipe for family cookouts, each taste brings me back to Cincinnati summers.  Most mornings during our visit I would wake up early to find Grandma already standing at the stove, tissue stuffed up her sleeve, boiling the potatoes or starting the evening’s meal before the heat filled her kitchen, her busyness leaving little room for the chatter of small children. How much love did she pour into these dishes, love that she couldn’t show any other way?  I have no memories of snuggles or kisses beyond the perfunctory kiss goodnight. But every meal was homemade and at night sometimes she would comb my hair and braid it just so in the way I loved.  It was only when she could no longer do these things that she began to say the words “I love you.”


From June 2013




The Unknowable


When the FB invite for a “Holiday Shopping Party” appeared in my newsfeed, I RSVP’d with a maybe, and my comment: “Food, Shopping and a Psychic, what could be more fun?” received several likes.

In truth, psychics make me anxious.  While I don’t “not believe,” I also don’t believe I have ever met someone who is actually psychic.  Intuitive?  Oh yes.  Psychic?  Not so much.

But the evening rolled around and my friend and I arrived, ready to nosh and shop and maybe glimpse into the future.  The gathering was a predominately female affair; folks with artistic tendencies and a modest degree of disposable income.  There were local artists displaying beautiful creations, all being admired by wine-drinking moms with a few random men sprinkled near the refreshments. The psychic’s name was Nanci with an “i,” an affectation I am willing to bet she adopted well into her 40’s.

She was a large boned woman, with that coarse hair that women of a certain age have, colored to a metallic sheen somewhere between auburn and copper.

Her jewelry was tastefully earthy, her clothes flowing and in natural shades of blue, green and purple.

She had a great smile, a warm manner, and not the straightest teeth.

I had been watching her watch the people in the room as they shopped and mingled.

One of Nanci’s friends asked if I had a reading yet and highly recommended her.

I joked about not wanting to know too much about my future. She assured me that there would be no bad news. Inwardly I mused this was a pretty good indication that Nanci with an ”i” was not psychic; experience dictates that bad news happens on a somewhat regular basis and surely a psychic would notice that.

It seemed to me that Nanci was likely another perceptive 50 something year old, discovering a midlife career telling women what they wanted to hear at craft fairs and senior centers.

I sat down, and wrote her a check.

She asked if I had a child – a daughter?  I nodded, silently applauding her observation of my shopping so far.

She asked if I sang – said that she saw music all around me.  Since most of the attendees were friends of our theatrical hostess this was also not much of a stretch.

She asked about a grandmother – were we close?  She saw the color brown, says the message she was receiving was telling her that my grandmother loves me and she is so supportive. She talked some generic happy memories of large family gatherings at holiday times that sounded lovely, but had nothing in common with my childhood memories of holidays living far away from any extended family.

And then she asked if I had any other children?  A son?  I told her he was deceased… and there was a moment’s hesitation, eyes closed, head still for second, followed by that attending nod.  She told me she sensed a loving presence, asked if he died young, as a baby?  Yes…

She nodded a lot with her eyes closed and told me that he was always near me and supportive.


Then she asked about my work and gave some nice vague encouraging signals about successful projects that were going to be great because I am so resourceful and said that my coworker or manager would let me take charge.

And then it was over.  There were a few more affirming nods, and then a smile.  Did I have any questions?

I was grateful she didn’t try to fake it.  She didn’t try to convince me she could channel Ryan, didn’t try to tell me that he was communicating with her to tell me anything.

I so wish it was different. I wish that when I am truly missing my son I could simply write Nanci with an “i” a check for $25 and have 15 minutes of definitive knowing. Knowing that he is aware of how much I miss him, how much I wish he were here to grow up with his sister.  Knowing that someday, I would be with him again, in some meaningful way that I cannot imagine.

But it is not to be.  I did not hear what my heart wants to hear.  I hadn’t dare to hope, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I finished my wine.  I picked up my cleverly packaged purchases, and hugged my hostess good-bye.