October 14, 2014

The sound of her love

Feeding my family.

It's more than just filling their empty bellies. I wouldn't need to cook to do that. During the siege of Leningrad in the early 1940s, desperate mothers were boiling their husbands' belts to make a broth for their starving children; ripping off their wallpaper for the scant amount of flour found in its glue. That is filling empty bellies. Feeding my family is less about survival (though we thank G0D for our food at every meal because without it we would starve). Feeding my family is more about...love.

Love comes in many audible forms. For some, love sounds like the buzz of a football game on TV, with a toddler dressed for game day tucked under his arm and a bowl of guacamole on the coffee table. For others, love sounds like the polite hum of a bass-boat motor on a whispering lake, with a wife at home who sent him off that morning with a cold-cut sandwich and a kiss on his cheek. Love can sound like the creak of a saddle or the whirrrr of a circular saw. I know at least one person for whom love sounds like a paint brush knocking about in a cup of water, turning the water gray from color-overload. Love can sound like the croon of a road-trip playlist, the crunch of dried leaves underfoot, a baby making sounds in the back of church, or a child plunking away at his arpeggios, up and down the piano.

For me, the sounds of love come from the kitchen. Of course I remember how my mother's food tasted, and I remember how it looked, and how it felt in my hands and mouth. I remember, too, how it smelled. But most keenly, I think, I remember how it sounded each day when Mom lovingly prepared our food. The springy click of the potato peeler, the falling thud of the blade paring the crisp potato flesh. The hissing of course-chopped onions dashed against hot oil, the snap of a corn cob down the middle, the hollow sound of celery being sliced against the grain. The ding of the timer, the beep-beep of the microwave, the suctioned yawn of the refrigerator opening, closing, opening, closing. The crash of pots and pans when a lid was needed in a hurry, and the rush of running water from the faucet, rinsing the residue away.

And now I am the one making music at the cutting board. I am the one building a soundtrack of love for my family. Like a Bon Jovi song that brings me back to tenth grade - when all I have to do is hear a few notes strung together and suddenly I am there, in living color - so it is when I hear the sound of pudding being whisked over medium heat. Suddenly I am back in 1988 and dinner is at 5 O'clock. Dad comes home from work in his polished shoes and ironed shirt, drops his brief case, and scoops us up in his arms, his breath still smelling like the onions he had in his lunch, and his beard tickling my cheek in the softest, happiest way. The memory is of Dad, but the sound of the oven door thunking closed behind us was all Mom. It was her way of loving us, her way of saying it.

It was the sound of her love.

p.s. Can you tell what book I'm reading, Rach? ;)