When you are the Mommy, you understand instinctively that it is your job to be the one who delivers the soup. You understand, as the nurturing woman in the lives of those around you, that YOU will boil the chicken bones, add the carrots, onions and garlic, simmer for three hours and then add the tiny meatballs. You will deliver the resulting concoction to your loved ones who are suffering from colds, flu, nausea, depression or generalized angst. They will feel better, and they will thank YOU.
As a child, an adolescent, a young woman, I regularly turned to my Mom for this kind of “soup”, both literally and figuratively. I went to my Mom’s kitchen for support, sustenance and healing. I ate that soup when I was scared, sad, confused or suffering from one of my annual sinus infections. And each time I slurped up that delicious, salty heat into my scratchy throat, I felt immediate relief.
Of course, it was in part the soothing hot broth that made me feel better, but it was mostly the fact that someone was taking care of me that made me rest and heal. There is something magical about letting go and admitting weakness that lets us somehow get better.
And of course, as soon as I reached womanhood myself, it became a part of MY sense of self to cook and serve that healing soup to others. I remember a time, when I was about 24 years old. A dear friend and her roommate came to visit from New York City. I was married, but had no children yet. We lived in a tiny apartment with drafty rooms, two cats, and a cozy kitchen. My friends arrived, on a cold and rainy day, and I served us all home made soup and fresh baked bread. The sighs of contentment from my guests were the greatest compliment that I could ever have imagined. It was the first of many hundreds of pots of soup that I would simmer and serve in my time.
I served soup to my husband when he had a cold, to my babies when they first learned to eat “real food”, to my toddlers as they battled croup, strep throat and pneumonia. I served it to my friends when they were enduring divorce or joblessness. I simmered and served both soup and advice to my children’s friends, when they came to spend a night with us.
I was the cook. I was the healer. I was the giver of the soup.
Today I was at school, meeting with two of my colleagues who are also beloved friends. I have been sick for a couple of weeks now, unable to shake a nasty bout of flu. I am tired, weak, lightheaded and slightly depressed. My bones ache, and I have been dealing with repeated rounds of the chills. I am starting to get a little worried. Is this the price that a middle aged woman pays when she does an exhausting job and tries to keep up with colleagues who are 20 or 30 years younger? Or is something truly amiss?
As I described my lethargy to my friends, one of them asked me, with a smile, “Do you want some homemade soup?” I demurred, siting my full refrigerator, my tendency to cook too much for just my husband and myself, my need to eat what was already there.
It was only as I drove home that it occurred to me. My friend, a young Mom of two, was offering me healing, support, nurturing, love. I had turned my back on this lovely gesture without meaning to.
I hadn’t realized that a big part of what makes the ritual of the soup so powerful is the fact that one of us is there to give, and one to happily accept.
I am out of practice in being the receiver of the healing soup. I have forgotten how good it feels to rest and to heal.
Thank-you, dear friend! I would LOVE some soup.