Heartbreak and Chicken Noodle Soup
We’ve all been there– you go for a drive in the country on a lazy Sunday afternoon because, let’s face it . . . you need a break from the constant kiddo activity, and having them strapped in their carseats for half an hour seems like as good an opportunity as any. You grab coffee from the McDonald’s drive-thru and try to pretend it’s a date, despite the scrabbling and whines of “I want fries!!!” from the tiny dictators in the backseat. You sigh and try to enjoy the view.
And then . . . you spot it– a big red “For Sale” sign on the lawn of that gorgeous country home you’ve been drooling over forever. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when you’re having a rough day, you drive home that way, just to gaze at it, wishing with all your heart you could turn down that driveway, turn the key in the lock, and go inside. You sigh as you pass. Wouldn’t it be amazing to sit on that gorgeous porch, sipping your iced tea and reading a book, without a care in the world? And how about that huge tree? Wouldn’t the kids adore a tire swing right there? You imagine the windows decorated with wreaths at Christmas, and the proud look on your face when people come to visit and say, “You live here? I’ve passed this house for years and always loved it! I never knew you were lucky enough to LIVE HERE!”
And so you begin the process that almost every American family faces, at some time in its life . . . buying a home. You put your old house on the market, chat with a smiley-faced real-estate agent, and look out excitedly as the “For Sale” sign is placed on your own yard. Your neighbors say, “Oh my goodness! I didn’t know you were moving! We will miss you so much!” You start looking at house listings and getting excited about the possibilities that are out there.
But you keep dreaming of that one special place.
And then comes the special day . . . the day that your agent arranges a showing at “The One.” You spend the day looking at the clock, wishing it to move more quickly so you can see inside. You get to the house half an hour early, because you just can’t wait any longer. Will it ever be 4:00? Finally, your realtor’s car bumps slowly up the gravel driveway, and you wait, biting your lip in excitement, as she fiddles with the key box. Finally, the door opens.
You step inside this glorious paradise– this siren that has been calling you to its side since you first saw it, all those years ago. You step inside, imagining this as the first of many such times– of many such friendly homecomings that you will enjoy once you’re the owner. You envision opening this door from the other side, and welcoming in family and friends. You can almost smell the Thanksgiving turkey cooking and see a table full of loved ones gathering in the spacious dining room, all toasting your good fortune at having snagged this house at such a great price.
And speaking of that . . . why is this house so reasonably priced, anyway? You have a hard time imagining why anyone would ever want to part with this house– much less at such a bargain price.
You begin to look around. For the first time, you notice that the porch you had so long admired has chipping paint and boards that are warping with age. The huge yard you envisioned as a garden and play area for your kids is overgrown and unkempt. The rooms are small– much smaller than you’d imagined. The more you look, the more you find that the house needs a great deal of fixing, which will take a great deal of money. And you have a great deal of heartbreak, as a result.
Such is my tale of woe, today. You may have noticed that for the past few weeks, I haven’t created as many new recipes. This sad tale is the reason. We have been house hunting, and among all the paperwork and loan applications and sale postings, we found the most beautiful house I have ever seen. To me, it was Green Gables– a gorgeous home sitting graciously atop acres of land in the country, with forests and streams and room for a garden and fruit trees and maybe even chickens. I sat on the deck and heard . . . absolute quiet. It had been so long that I had almost forgotten what peaceful silence sounded like. My heart somehow felt at home in this place. I knew I could live there for all the rest of my days, and I would never leave. It was all so beautiful; I felt a tear slip down my cheek as I sat there. My soul was content and at peace, there. I knew I could never find a more beautiful place if I searched all my life.
And to spare you the details, we made an offer on this little piece of heaven. But we didn’t get the house, and we don’t have the resources to pursue it further. It felt like the worst heartbreak, imaginable, losing this place. It felt like your first junior high breakup, mixed with being stood up for a date, with a side of losing your best friend. I literally felt nauseous when I heard the news that it was gone.
And so I decided to make chicken noodle soup. Synonymous with comfort, itself, homey chicken soup is the warmth of a grandmother’s hug, combined with the squeeze of your child’s hand. It’s knowing that you have money to pay your bills. It’s coming in from the cold. It’s hope for tomorrow.
And it’s very, very good on a hard day.
And so I got out my cutting board, and my favorite knife (“Could that be . . . Mac the Knife?”), and I started chopping away. I may or may not have said “Off with their heads!” as I chopped the carrots. It was just such a miserable day.
I chopped onions, and carrots, and celery. I minced and stirred and tasted. And as the stock began to heat, the entire house filled with the most incredible smell. It smelled like chicken, and vegetables, and rich, homemade broth. It smelled like comfort and Grandma’s kitchen all rolled into one. It smelled like a fresh start, too, somehow.
And those little broken scraps started to come together. Somehow, some way, what looked like one colossal mess started to look like something good.
When it was done, I put out a simple bowl of soup and some crackers. I used my old kitchen dishtowel and some fresh thyme from my garden. I didn’t fuss with the photo, like I normally do. I didn’t set up my lights or worry about it or try to get my composition exactly right. I just took it in the light of my kitchen window, exactly as it looked. And, somehow, it turned out to be a wonderful photo, anyway.
Perhaps life is a little like that. You never know what you’re going to get, and sometimes it seems like the snips and pieces and broken shards will never come together. But somewhere along the way, things tend to work out. The broken bits become something better than we could have imagined when we were just looking at those humble beginnings. Go ahead and make some homemade chicken soup. Block out the rest of the day– how your toddler went through 6 pairs of underwear in an hour, while you were under the delusion that he was potty trained (yesterday?). Ignore the fact that you have cleaned up your house an impossible amount of times, trying to camouflage baby cribs, toys, and changing tables, while random people walked through and ate you out of blueberry muffins, without ever making an offer. It’s truly amazing how many muffins people can eat, as they tour your house and drop crumbs all over your carpet, and then leave remarks that your house wasn’t clean. Block out the single person who judged you at walmart during the 4:00 toddler witching hour. Block it all out.
Take a deep breath. Let out all the stress. Taste your delicious soup. And know that it’s going to be all right.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.