From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

A Legacy in a Soup Pot

Have you ever noticed the busier your life seems to be, the more empty it appears to become? I remember staring at my date book early one Monday morning—scores of meetings, deadlines and projects leered back at me, assailing my senses and demanding my attention. I remember thinking for the umpteenth time, What does all this really matter?

And lately, with all this introspection, I had been remembering my beloved grandmother. Gram had a sixth-grade education, an abundance of kitchen-table wisdom and a wonderful sense of humor. Everyone who met her thought it was so appropriate that she had been born on April 1—the day of practical jokes, good laughs and hearty humor—and she certainly spent her lifetime buoying up everyone’s spirits.

Cerebral she was not, but to a child, she was Disney World personified. Every activity with Gram became an event, an occasion to celebrate, a reason to laugh. Looking back, I realize it was a different time, a different sphere. Family, fun and food played an important role.

Meals were Gram’s mainstay—occasions to be planned, savored and enjoyed. Hot, sit-down breakfasts were mandatory. The preparation of lunch began at 10:30 every morning, with homemade soup simmering, and dinner plans started at 3:30 P.M., with a telephone call to the local butcher to make a delivery. Gram spent a lifetime meeting the most basic needs of her family.

Stopping to pick up yet another take-out meal for dinner, my mind traveled back to her kitchen. The old, oak kitchen table, with the single pedestal . . . the endless pots of soups, stews and gravies perpetually simmering on the stove top . . . the homey tablecloths stained with love from a meal past. My gosh, I thought with a start. I’m over forty, and I have yet to make a pot of soup or stew from scratch!

Suddenly the cardboard take-out containers next to me looked almost obscene. I felt as if I had been blessed with a wonderful legacy, and for one reason or another, I had never quite gotten to the point of passing it on.

The following day, I rummaged through the attic searching for a cardboard box that had been stowed away. Twenty-five years ago, that box had been given to me when Gram decided to move from the old homestead. I vaguely remember going through my “inheritance” as a teen. Every granddaughter had received a pocketbook. Mine was a jeweled evening bag, circa 1920. I remembered I carried it at my college graduation. However, being a headstrong teen at the time of my “inheritance,” I never really bothered with the rest of the contents. They remained sealed in that same box, buried somewhere in the attic.

It wasn’t that difficult to locate the box, and it was even easier to open it. The tape was old and gave way easily. Lifting the top, I saw Gram had wrapped some items in old linen napkins—a butter dish, vase and at the bottom, one of her old soup pots. The lid was taped to the pot itself. I peeled back the tape and removed the lid.

At the bottom of the pot was a letter, penned in Gram’s own hand:

My darling Barbara,

I know you will find this one day many years from now. While you are reading this, please remember how much I loved you, for I’ll be with the angels then, and I won’t be able to tell you myself.

You were always so headstrong, so quick, so much in a hurry to grow up. I often had wished that I could have kept you a baby forever. When you stop running, when it’s time for you to slow down, I want you to take out your Gram’s old soup pot and make your house a home.I have enclosed the recipe for your favorite soup, the one I used to make for you when you were my baby.

Remember I love you, and love is forever.

Your Gram

I sat reading that note over and over that morning, sobbing that I had not appreciated her enough when I had her. You were such a treasure, I moaned inwardly. Why didn’t I even bother to look inside this pot while you were still alive!

So that night, my briefcase remained locked, the answering machine continued to blink and the disasters of the outside world were put on hold. I had a pot of soup to make.

Barbara Davey

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