I have always loved the seasons. When I was younger, the cold and cozy winter months were some of my favorites. February especially has its charms — a short, snowy little month, with an entire day devoted to love, and light that stays around longer, minute by minute, every evening. Snow flurries and red hearts and the first glimmers of spring on its way. What’s not to like?
Well. Then I became a mother. Suddenly, the cold winter months lost their snowy luster, and instead started to feel like nothing more than a long and furious battle to keep my child from getting sick over and over again. In the past week alone, my son has managed to come down with both the stomach flu, and a feverish, chest-rattling, faucet-nosed cold. I’m ready to flip the calendar on you, February.
It’s safe to say that caring for a sick toddler is no easy task. What else, besides snuggles and cups of milk and an all-night invitation to mom’s side of the bed, can you give to a sick little one?
The answer is soup. Soup, soup, soup.
My mom is a wonderful cook, and soup has always been one of her specialties. Chicken soup with peppery broth and long, slurpy noodles. Creamy and buttery asparagus soup. Split pea, my favorite. Rainy spring evenings will always make me think of it — she’d make stock with the bone from our Easter ham, chop onions and carrots, and serve bread and butter alongside bowls full of flavorful greens. The longer the soup sat, the thicker it’d become, and oh! It’ll be a miracle if I can ever recreate the taste of it. To this day, I cannot eat soup made by anyone else and not feel slightly disappointed that it doesn’t taste like mom’s. And that’s because, of course, my mom makes good, good soup. But I think it also has something to do with that warm bowl of comfort, made by the same woman who slept all night on the couch with me when I was small and feverish, who tested my temperature by pressing her cool cheek to my forehead, who could diagnose a sickness by simply looking at me. Mom equals comfort equals hot bowls of soup. Plain and simple.
So, on the quiet and cold days of February, when fevers spike and noses have been rubbed red and raw, I know what to do. I boil stock on the stove all day long, and watch the steam fog up the kitchen windows and cut the dry winter air. My sniffly little one drags his blanket into the kitchen and I let him play with pots and pans by my feet while I peel and chop. I ladle steamy broth into bowls and set spoons on the table. I might not be able to keep my son from getting sick, but at least I can try to make him feel better. At least I can make soup.