Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A story about soup


It seems way too sweltering today, to talk about tomato soup. The only bowl I want to dive into, is a bowl of ice cream or a 5500 gallon bowl of too-cold water. Regardless of my wants and desires, I'm going to tell you a little story about a can of soup that changed my outlook on the life.

When I was little I fell mostly to the care of my mother and grandmother. Once I got big enough, and my mom got a full time job, I spent many afternoons after kindergarten at the neighbor's house as they were a temporary baby sitter. Most of the time tho, I spent those afternoons at my grandmother's house where she taught me to read and write my letters, let me have ice cream and/or cookies out of her kettle cookie jar, or watching Gilligan's Island or even my favorite - the Brady Bunch.

One afternoon tho, there was no one to take care of me. I don't have any idea where everyone was. My older sister is 5 years older than me, so she had many afternoons of babysitting from about age 10 on, but she was not there. No grandma, no mom, no neighbors, no friends.

That left me in the hands of one person.

My dad.

Now when I was little, there was no male figure I was more scared of than my dad. It could be a big long sad story if I let it be, but I got over it several years ago and just let it go.

I will just say that a.) my dad did what he knew to do. It wasn't the best he *could* have done, but it was all he knew and b.) later on in life he softened up a lot. Most of that had to do with 2 little girls that came late in all our lives, my sisters Torrie and Amber. They ended up with a pretty good dad.

That day, I probably was around 6 or 7 years old and honestly, I don't even remember speaking to my father until that day. Now let's be fair, I don't know for sure that hadn't, it's just that I don't remember it. I did my best not to engage the man that was home every other weekend (he worked away during the week).

The only other thing I can remember that happened that day (other than the horror of being stuck with my dad for the day) was lunch. Dad had to make me lunch. Dad never cooked. Oh yeah, once in a while, before he found out about the diabetes and the high blood pressure, dad and mom would be in the kitchen together making mashed potato donuts (for the record, they did have mashed potatoes in them, and man were they good!). Later in life, my dad made a real mean chili and it was one of those things that he was "assigned" to make. I really don't even remember him grilling, but I know he did when I was little because we have a photo of him doing just that.

That day, without asking me what I wanted, my dad went to the kitchen cabinet and pulled out a can of tomato soup and started to make it for me.

Now don't forget, I was scared of this guy, and there was NO WAY in heck, I was going to tell my dad that I didn't like something, or that I wasn't going to eat something he made for me for fear I might get a whipping.

He made it with milk, not water. We're talking approximately 1975, so good old whole milk, no one had even heard of skim back then. It was nice and thick and creamy when he sat it down in front of me with a small stack of saltines.

One look at the yucky pink soup.
One look at great big, ginormous, mean man.

I took the easy route. I ate the soup.

What I didn't expect to happen, was falling in love with tomato soup. I remember my mom being shocked when she asked him what he fed me, and when he told her tomato soup, she said "she won't eat that" and he told her that I did. I think I even got the stink eye from my mom, because let's be fair, I had no problem being a picky eater in her presence.

Over the years, I've eaten hundreds (thousands?) of bowls of tomato soup. Somewhere along the line, I figured out that the best tomato soup, included a big gooey grilled cheese sandwich for dipping, and it's always best served in a coffee mug so you can sip it like a tomato-ish hot chocolate... and it ALWAYS must be made with milk. Unfortunately, it's usually skim milk nowadays

It has never failed, that from age 6, to now, every single time I eat a bowl of tomato soup, my mind travels back to the day that my dad made me lunch, and how if I hadn't been so scared of him, I would have never figured out that I love tomato soup. I try to remember that moment later in life when presented with a big thick calamari steak or a plate of buffalo. How will I know I hate it, if I don't at least give it a taste.

It's something I try to instill into my kids, but most of the time they don't play along. I'm hoping someday they'll grow out of it.

Exactly one year ago today, my dad passed away after a long illness. He died at home with all of us there, and his dog, Gunner, in his lap. I just wanted to share a happy memory that I have of him instead of focusing on anything sad, or bad. I've not thought about it much today except for right now, and this will be the last I will discuss it for the day.

Long before the end, I forgave my dad for the too harsh spankings, and for not being around, so I hope that if you read this, you'll know I am only speaking of him as the man he ended up being... kind of quiet, but loved his friend and his family. Loved the outdoors. Loved old movies and the TV. Thought my mom was beautiful. Believed in God and asked to go to heaven.

Prayers answered.

And guess what?

I really don't like tomatoes. :)

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