On Monday, I went grocery shopping for the first time in two or more weeks. It’s hard to want to shop for food when nothing sounds good to eat, and when shopping requires and hour or more of walking around the grocery store, then carrying and emptying and putting away bags when I get home. These days, grocery shopping is my definition of awful. But the refrigerator was getting all kinds of sad looking, and we didn’t have milk left for cereal or bread left for toast, so I went to the store with a list and a few dinner menu ideas in mind that sounded O.K.
On this particular trip, if an item wasn’t on the list, I didn’t buy it. This is hard for me to do, but when I just want to get in, get out, and get home, it makes life much easier. (It’s also quite friendly on the wallet.) I stocked the cart up with practical things: milk, chocolate milk (baby seems to like it, so now we buy it), sour cream, cheese. Cereal, bread, tortilla chips and tortillas, ground turkey, a whole chicken, egg noodles. Fruits and veggies, including bananas, apples, celery, onions, carrots and avocado. A frozen pizza for Jason. A few quick-to-pack, snackable items for me, and caffeine free Pepsi for when my stomach is having a field day. No liver sausage (although it still sounded good), because the butcher looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if they carried it. I paid for the contents of my cart and made my way home with one task in mind: homemade chicken noodle soup.
It was already late by the time I unloaded the car and put things away, so I tabled the chicken for the night. On Tuesday, I put the 5.5 Lb. bird in the oven for a few hours in the afternoon, so we’d have chicken for dinner and I’d have the rest of it for Wednesday night’s pot of chicken soup.
Making homemade chicken noodle soup isn’t just something I do when it gets to be this time of year. Growing up, mom’s chicken noodle soup was a labor of love, a feast for special occasions, the perfect comfort when nothing else felt right with the world. It’s still the item I request when coming home to visit, and still the thing she makes even if I don’t ask. I’ve never tasted a better rendition. So now, being all grown up and too far away to dash to Mom’s on a weeknight for a bowl (or two) of soup, I make my own version from memory–recalling the steps and ingredients she’s included in every pot for years.
Wednesday evening, I came home to chop celery, onions and carrots, and to clean every last piece of passable chicken meat off the bone. I boiled the rest of the carcass, skin and juices for stock, simmered the veggies and added seasoning as necessary. After skimming the stock, I combined the two pots, gave it more time to flavor and boiled egg noodles to mix in when finished. One of my favorite meals on the table, I delighted in putting the rest into containers for leftovers and freezing–chicken soup for lunch, and dinner again, and for just because.
Jason and I sat down to our homemade meal, enjoyed, cleaned things up. And then, I got sick. The chills and aches hit me like a truck. A fever followed shortly after. And all I could think the whole time was, “How’s the baby doing with all of this going on?” I called the on-call doctor at 10:30pm, after worrying for a few hours and wondering what was best to do. She suggested a virus, told me to stay home a rest for a few days, and to make sure I wasn’t getting dehydrated. Seemed practical enough. But I felt terrible, and honestly, I kind of just wanted my mom. I also wanted to know that baby was just fine, all tucked away inside and protected from whatever was racking me physically.
I rarely get sick, and when I do, it doesn’t take me long to get back on my feet. But the 24+ hours I held onto a fever seemed like forever with the little one growing in my belly. I wanted to do something, to make it better, and more safe. I wanted to protect all of the little growing parts at once. So I prayed. I rested and prayed and stayed hydrated. And when dinnertime came around again, I was oh-so-grateful for chicken noodle soup.
There’s something about the things a mom does, just for her children, that make them divine. And by that I mean they’re unwavering, sacrificial, unconditional, ingrained, out of the utmost love. When I think about the things my mom did for me, in all of the years, through all of my growing and changing, my celebrations and heartaches, I think about things like chicken noodle soup, prom dresses, singing and dancing in the kitchen, her fingers running through my hair. I consider the things that feel like home, and that made it what it was–what it is. And I recognize among them my own desire to create home, to be unconditional. It’s happening, in just the ways that I hoped it would. I think first about this little one before anything else. I hope to be “mom” in all of the loving ways that my mom has been, and when I’m unsure how, I call her and ask. And these days, I make chicken noodle soup. I cook and chop and simmer and serve, for all of the right reasons.
feeling a bit better, at home and grateful.