The Scullery has been producing a lot of soup as of late, more than usual for the month of April. I woke up this morning to snow, which I can work with. I can still ride my bike, I can still have a fire in the chiminea on the patio. What I cannot work with are gale force winds, which is what I am listening to outside my window now.
As I believe every situation is nothing more than an opportunity, I mulled over the “opportunities” that seemed to present themselves at every turn this morning. Fold laundry. Vacuum. Both nixed. I made the bed and glanced out our bedroom window. There is a copper bell hanging beside our patio that belonged to my mother. When the wind picks up, various memories ring through my mind along with the deep clanging sound of the bell. My mother gardening in her Robert Redford t-shirt. The baby bird she’d raised in our guest room after finding it abandoned in the white pines near our front door. She’d released it with tears when it had grown, and every following summer she would call for it in the yard, hoping it would appear to say hello.
I tell these stories to very few people, mostly because they bring stinging tears to my eyes and choke up my throat in a way I try to keep in check on most occasions. But just about a year ago I invited my neighbor over for Mother’s Day mimosa. Although we’d lived across the way from one another for over 5 years, I didn’t really know her and that just didn’t seem right. I have since nicknamed her (and her kitchen) “The Soup Trader,” though I am getting ahead of myself.
She’d brought a lovely dip to share, though my (then) puppies made it a bit difficult to fully enjoy it, and she immediately began chatting as if we were old friends. Which is a beautiful quality. A breeze whispered between the houses, and the copper bell made a soft clanging noise. My mother appeared in the corners of my mind, cutting fresh daffodils to put on the table for my birthday dinner every year. I began to tell stories about her to my new friend.
As it turns out, The Soup Trader has been working through the trauma of watching a parent navigate the horrible fate of dementia as well. There are dozens of scenarios I could recount for you here. Sadness. Comical situations. Painful heartbreak. Tales of moments, of split seconds that tear through your entire being only to be replaced with a smile and a reminder that your mom (or dad) is still there, battling this mess of a hand they’ve been dealt with a strength and bravery you cannot even fathom. That your other parent, the one trying to provide care for their spouse of 62 years who does not remember them anymore, is handling an agony they never imagined. I could insert all sorts of details to illustrate. But I don’t really want to talk about those right now.
We sat for over two hours on the patio that day, trading stories and coming up with ideas to bring the neighborhood closer together. Perhaps a block party…or some sort of summer event to unite all the homes surrounding us both. The Soup Trader, you see, has much more to trade with others than simply her delicious soups.
The summer sun waned and shifted to a rainy fall with friendly hellos and then a holiday cookie exchange. As winter settled in, an invitation arrived in the mailbox. The Soup Trader had invited all the women of the neighborhood to an evening with soup and camaraderie. Although my own entrance and exit felt hurried as a result of work meetings, etc., the event was lovely and heartwarming. She had a Black Bean Soup on the stove that has since become a staple meal in The Scullery.
As the Quarantine carries on, we exchange text messages periodically along with friendly hellos. She was the recipient of my Muffin Drop and Dash the other day. I left Corn Chowder on her step; she brought a jar full of her Chicken and Mushroom Soup (her basic recipe is simply stated…”a little of this, a little of that…”). She brought my container back filled with homemade Carrot Cake. I took her some of the blue ribbon-worthy Cheesy Potato Soup this morning, dropping it and running straight home (not because of the Quarantine, but because it is 20 degrees with the wind chill and I am wearing shorts).
Her delighted response made me laugh out loud…”OMG I was supposed to start being ‘good’ this week!” I let her know that she could count the carrots and onions as vegetables and stay right on track…to which she agreed.
The best news I have for you is that The Soup Trader could actually be a franchise; I am quite sure your town has one as well, just waiting for you to discover its location. Check in with your neighbors…you’ll find it. It’s the one with the smiling face across the way.