I was looking for a quick and warm supper for tonight. As my mind was floundering about, I suddenly remembered that I had bought a can of salmon some time ago and put it on the shelf for such a time as this.
Many was the Saturday night after a long day of cleaning and shopping and such that our tired Mama would bring out a can of salmon, warm the milk and add a few of her own touches along with a can of salmon and feed her six hungry children and husband on that can of salmon and milk from the bulk tank. The melted butter floated in the top and the salty crackers broken up in it made a warm and nourishing soup. She flaked the salmon small and we savored every morsel of salmon that sank in our soup bowls while we all sat around the kitchen table, and had bread with King Syrup on it to serve as an accessory to the simple meal. Daddy probably had home canned peaches to finish things off.
Just about the time I had made up my mind to make Salmon Soup for supper, the phone rang. It was my Sweet Mama. She has been spending some time with my brother, Nel, and his wife, Rose. She gets such good care there and I’m always glad for her sake when she can go. However, she has been sick and still sounds tight and wheezy in her voice. Her good doctor prescribed antibiotics for her as well as an expectorant, but I’ve had some anxious thoughts since she has been gone. Not that she would get better care if she were home, but she seems so far away.
“What are you doing?” Her familiar voice rang cheerily over the phone line. It is her typical question. (There have been times when she asked that question and I didn’t want to answer and I would scramble for something to do quick so that I could answer something that would meet with her approval or that I would feel comfortable telling her I was doing.)
This time I could tell her what I was doing for most of the day. “I’ve been working on my Christmas letter,” I told her. “And I saw the dentist this morning for an appliance for those front teeth that are hurting, and I’ve been home. It’s been cold and snowing. I’m getting ready to make some supper.”
I paused and then said, “How did you make your Salmon Soup back when we were children? I would like to make some for supper, and I’m not sure I remember what all you put into it.”
She went over the simple steps, asked Sister in Law, Rose, how she did it and we had quite a discussion. Suddenly, I was filled with a deep and pensive longing.
“Oh, Mama,” I said. “What I wouldn’t give to be a little girl again tonight. To pull my chair up to that kitchen table with you and Daddy and all my brothers and sisters and have a bowl of your Salmon Soup. To not have any responsibilities except to be a part of our family as a little girl . . . ” I couldn’t go on. The tears were clouding my voice.
She was quiet for scarcely a second, and then she said gently, “That would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
And then we were on to other things, but the longing had been stirred and it followed me the whole evening. Certain Man and I, sitting at the counter with our bowls of Salmon Soup, were enjoying some quiet moments together, and I was still pensive.
“Sweetheart,” I finally said, tentatively, “do you ever feel homesick to be back with all the family around the table again?”
He looked at me puzzled and said, “Well, it would be nice, I guess, but they are all scattered, I mean, they DO come home, but I guess it’s not the same –”
“Oh, I didn’t mean OUR children,” I hastily interrupted. “What I meant was when you were children. Do you ever wish to be back around the table with your sisters and brother and Dad and Mom –”
His eyes were suddenly guarded and he shook his head so slightly.
“Don’t you have any good memories about being together for supper or having fun around the table–?” My voice hung in the air, and he turned his head away.
“Not that I can remember,” he said tightly.
This time, my tears were not selfish.
There are far worse things than wishing you could somehow be back in the happy, warm, embracing, comforting, encouraging memories of long ago.
One of them is to remember your childhood and to never wish to be back there.