Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Soup

Three years ago today, on what would be our last Valentine's Day together, TJ made us borscht.  It was practically overflowing a lobster sized pot.  We ate on it for days and froze two containers that were left over once we'd had more than enough.  On the day that he died, my friends who brought me home from the hospital cleaned out my refrigerator, transferred the soup to our freezer and put our clean dishes away.  A few days later, we packed the perishables and thus the two containers of soup were transferred to my parents house.

The first Valentine's day without TJ I was house sitting for dear friends in Oregon.  The second Valentine's day without TJ I had classes.  This year, on this snow day, I had the luxury of being still and reflecting on what celebrating Valentine's day with TJ used to be like.  So many Valentine's day celebrations together.  Earrings, rings, cupcakes, roses, cards and pink soup... we always so enjoyed celebrating our love on a day dedicated to Love.  Our last one together was spent eating the borscht that TJ had lovingly prepared.  We watched Evil Dead 2 (how romantic) and snuggled on the couch.  He gave me a beautiful card and I'd bought him flowers.

This morning I remembered the soup.  I'd remembered it last year and forgot to thaw it out.  I didn't even know then that I was never really planning to take it out of the freezer.  I couldn't.  I didn't think I could today, either.  I'd texted a friend about it, and then posted a note on facebook.  I was trying to have other people convince me not to eat it.  Mostly because I didn't think I could even look at the containers.  Instead, I put on the jewelry he'd given me on past Valentine's dates.  One year, I had begged for this one ring.  I'd showed him the mystic fire topaz stone and not so subtly hinted.  At the time we were both living with room mates so I rented a hotel room for us across from the movie theater.  I checked in and got the table set with the Italian takeout I had picked up for us.  When he arrived, he held this HUGE white box.  He was grinning from ear to ear and handed it to me.  It must have weighed 20lbs and I couldn't imagine what was in it.  And I knew from the size and weight that it couldn't possibly be the ring I'd begged for.  I thought I concealed my confusion well, and later I would find out that I hadn't.  When I opened the box there was so much tissue paper.  Once I'd been able to dig through to the bottom, TJ's free weights (20lbs of them) were taped to the bottom of the box.  And sitting in the middle of the weights was a tiny green box.  I opened it to find the most beautiful mystic topaz ring.  The shock on my face must have been clearly visible because TJ laughed uncontrollably.  This morning, I put it on.  And after receiving wisdom from a dear friend, I dug the frozen soup containers out of the freezer.

I let one thaw a bit and then put it on the stove to heat.  Soon, the smell began to waft from the pot as it warmed.  I have only had this soup once in my life and yet the smell was incredibly familiar to me.  As if I were still in my old kitchen, watching him stir the pot.  I served it up in a beautiful bowl, said a little prayer, and excused myself to sit privately in my mom's office.

I settled in on her sofa and looked up, taking in the yellowed sunlight streaming through the sheer window panels.  I started to cry as I looked down into the bowl I held in my hands.  It was so warm, the smell so inviting.  I could not believe that, right in front of me, after three years of missing him, there was something I could take into my body that was made my his hands.  He'd never made it before.  I remember he couldn't stop talking about the color, how vibrant it was.  I held the first spoonful up to my lips and blew gently to cool it down.  I took several centering breaths before I experienced the first taste.  The flavor was better than I remembered.  I closed my eyes and allowed the liquid and soft pieces of beets, potato, and beef mingle in my mouth.  I savored the tastes and textures, and the love that went into making this dish for me.  With each bite I did this.  I ate it so slowly, pausing between each spoonful to experience the gratitude I felt in having this gift.  I added nothing to this soup.  No salt, no spices.  I wanted to experience it exactly as prepared by TJ.  A teardrop did fall into the bowl, a fitting sacrifice.  The tears are coming swiftly still as I write this.  I find it hard to believe that I had the gift of nourishing my body today, with his love, after all these years apart.

The exact words of wisdom shared with me were "Eat it, or at least a little.  It is blessed, it won't make you sick."  Her words have echoed inside me since I read them.  It is blessed.  I am blessed by it.  In partaking of this meal I feel anointed by his hands and by his love.  Happy Valentine's Day, TJ.  I love you so much.

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