Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comfort Food

Top, My Brother and Sister and I
Bottom Left, My Mother (coming to call us in for hot chocolate!)

Tired of the snow yet? I can recall lying in bed as a child, in the early morning hours, waiting with butterflies in my stomach for that announcement of the news I already knew: "Schools will be closed today!".  And they were, usually  for the next two days as well. Snow in Cleveland meant instant vacation back then. The type of snow we have experienced these past few days in much of the country was the usual winter fare in Cleveland "back in the day".

The excitement would build as I curled up in a warm bed, planning my day. My sister and brother and I would wake up to a good, hot breakfast—which usually included cream of wheat, our favorite on such a cold, snowy day. We would force our mother to promise not to stir it so that soft, chewy lumps of grain would form and then eat it with butter, sugar and lots of milk, something I do to this day. After breakfast we bundled in our snowsuits, leggings (what ever happened to leggings?), boots, scarves and gloves, and somewhat resembling robots, headed outside for most of the day. Once outside we began making a snow fort out of the entire back yard. We would each focus on a particular corner of the yard and built our forts as high as we could with ice "bricks" which were broken off of mountains of snow, and then tunneling through the crusty drifts to prepare for the snowball war to soon follow. 

We never needed to be told to "find something to do". There was a whole world of things to do, given birth by our imaginations. Winter, summer, spring, fall, we were outside all day until supper, interacting with each other and our friends, enjoying the world around us, simply being children. As children we didn't need "love lives" then, we didn't have an unhealthy obsession with sex or interest in drugs or  experience anxiety from societal pressures constantly bombarding us with "be more". Perhaps it is our self-complacency as adults which is ever-increasingly manifested in our children. We didn't need to hear TV commercials focused on telling us to "Get up, get up, get up, be a player" or "Play an hour a day". Does it not seem odd and unnatural to hear social advertisements telling children to play? It does to me and it makes me sad. What has happened to childhood? What has happened to us, that we would allow such destruction of childhood?

After the war ended, frozen and wet, we headed back into the house to change into dry clothes and drink the hot chocolate that was keeping warm on the stove, waiting for us. The house was always warm, even in winter. The love and security we felt as children warmed us as no blanket ever could. And, perhaps, this is what I remember most about my childhood. We would rest easily at night, ready for sleep after a full day, knowing we were loved for who we were, that nothing we might do could change that, never doubting that we were the priority in our parents' lives. It was never something that had to be verbalized. It just was.

My father would come home after work, and supper was soon to follow. On every Saturday, and especially on snowy, winter days, supper would consist of a huge pot of beef soup. It was my father's favorite meal. And when I cook that same soup today, the wafting fragrance serves up a feast of warm and satisfying memories which nourish me and keep me grounded.

Perhaps the word that best describes my childhood is "comfort". I did not know the pain or anxiety of having to take on adult roles. I was a child and concerned with those things befitting a child. My parents knew how to love, each other and us. Neither was overly concerned about place in life, and both were concerned more with their children's well-being than the views of the world. There were no power struggles, within the family or society. The focus was on our welfare and happiness and our growth as individuals. There was love. And there was consolation and solace in knowing it would always be that way.

And as we drifted off, sleep—and peace—came to us sweet and warm. It drifted down from the rafters with the love and laughter which protected us when we were children.  And as I sleep each night, the memories, sweet and warm,  ring from distant rafters, drifting down to comfort me, ground me, slow me down when this world begins to move a little too fast. 

Comfort Food

We always laughed
As daddy ate his soup
From a large serving bowl
Filled to the brim
With hot savory beef broth,
A mountain of thin noodles
And a dash of Tabasco,
Pausing every now and then
To wipe his perspiration-covered face
And sit back, gratified, proclaiming
"I like soup no matter what flavor it is!"

We would race to drain
Our bowls in order to be first
To claim the prize—the juicy bones
Layered with chunks of soft beef,
Chewy gristle and mouth-watering
Beefy marrow which we would
Spread on our heavily salted meat

This was Saturday supper
Every week, every month,
All the years of our childhood
And the contentment
Of those early years was not only
From young, full bellies
But the love and security
That seemed to hover
Around our table, cloaking us
From the elements
Of change, floating

Like the rich, golden bubbles
Swirling in our Saturday soup


Laughter rose
And rang from the rafters
Drifting down softly
To comfort at night.
Sleep was sweet and warm
Within the cocoon of family
In my youth.

Laughter rose
And rang from the rafters
Drifting down softly
To comfort at night.
Sleep was sweet and warm
Within the cocoon of family
When my children were young.

Long-ago laughter echoes
And rings from distant rafters
Drifting down softly
To comfort at night.
Memories are sweet and warm
Within the cocoon of family
As I sleep.

Thank you for reading; and keep warm...