Life can play tricks on people. And surprisingly, it can do so even on holidays.
I once knew a woman who dreaded holidays. From a month before any holiday her heart would begin to hurt. Literally, the spot right in the center of her chest would start to ache as if it were being squeezed by an old-fashioned orange juicer. What it was really being squeezed by was Fate, and as she told me – Fate is a terribly powerful thing . . . the moreso in that you often can’t catch it to do anything to it. It’s flighty and quick, it jumps out from behind corners then shimmers away, leaving ‘things as they were’ changed.
I myself rather dread the work involved in holidays. Two children and some cats can – to the generous giver – swing life into an alternate reality of stress. What to do? How to do it? Where to do it? How much to do? Where is all this money going to come from? What about the cards that should be sent? Do I start at the beginning of the month and plow through it like a sturdy work horse? How can it be simplified? Where, where, where is the time to do all this????!
My friend (we’ll call her Faith – it seems appropriate) hated holidays because her children, the ones she cared for on every other day of the year – were proscribed to go across many miles to their father’s house at these times. And as she described it to me, it was as if part of herself was being physically ripped off, torn raggedly at the edges, to be trotted away to some other place.
The holidays would approach and things would get tense. The children were worried, somewhat discombobulated. The shift of households during this primal and bright time of year felt like strange moonbeams entering an otherwise everyday world. My friend would try to smile more, to keep the holiday spirit aloft, to hug them more, to fold them into her arms so tightly that they might somehow magically become attached to her heart, never to have to leave.
How this translated to life in the kitchen was sometimes unusual. The exhaustion of keeping the everyday dancing along moved itself right into the pantry and larder. Things would be forgotten from the grocers, and other things cooked which, for some vague indefinable reason, nobody really wanted to eat.
And so it came to pass that one day very close to the time when the children would have to get on the plane with anxious faces and the determination to do right – it was suppertime, and supper was to be a soup. A rich soup, one they’d liked before. It was an Armenian meatball soup, from Arthur Schwarz’s soup book.
The table was readied, with wide soupbowls and warm savory bread. The soup was served. And nobody could stand it. It was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was simply wrong, and nobody really knew why. It was the same soup. But wrong.
Well, sometimes things are wrong.
How tired Faith was. And the children were cranky, understandably so. And hungry, too.
This soup was wrong, and not only that, there had been another soup not liked at all just several days earlier! A statement made, perhaps, about the current reality?
Faith looked at the other soup sitting in its covered bowl in the fridge. It was a lentil soup. “Why not?,” she thought. And she took the lentil soup, and took the meatball soup, and put them together in a big pot to heat and blend their flavors.
“Eat some bread,” she told her children.
And in about five minutes, or maybe seven – she walked towards the table with a small spoon in her hand, filled with the newly made Two Wrongs Soup. She fed one spoon into the doubting mouth of one child then went back and got another. Faith lifted that spoon into the mouth of the other scowling child.
And the scowls and the doubt softened. And so it went, for the rest of the meal. Faith scooted around the table shooting spoonfuls of the Two Wrongs Soup into the now-laughing mouths of the children, who loved every bite.
When the children got on the plane that year to leave Faith alone for the holidays, each one had been fed with something which started out very wrong, but worked out very right. Faith still had no faith herself in this thing called ‘the holidays’ but even within it all, there was the table of that evening of the soups.
And that was good.