Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Tear Soup

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tear Soup

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

-- From "O Holy Night"

Lately I have written much about my experiences and observations, which I find greatly amusing and fun. However, since I have now been in this house for four entire days now, I find myself obligated to turn inward instead to write. I mean, who wants to hear about my trek to the mailbox in the dark last night or what the cat threw up on the stairs?

I'm finding that as Christmas approaches, my emotions are surfacing with a much greater force than I expected and are becoming quite difficult to neatly contain. Emotions are so darn messy. Being a teensy bit of a control freak, I don't like messy things that a Clorox antibacterial wipe won't instantly take care of. Emotions bubble and boil over. They're sticky. They're sweet. They're bitter. They're even sometimes kind of greasy and leave a residue on you all day. You feel them whether you have given them your consent or not. Without them, life would be so much cleaner.

I just finished Tear Soup, a beautifully written book about Grandy, a woman who suffers an unspecified loss of "someone close" and goes through the grieving process in the form of making a bubbling batch of tear soup. She starts by choosing the size of the pot to use, and the book explains that sometimes a person can start with a small pot but decide their grief is bigger than that or vice-versa, but that it's okay to change pots in the middle of cooking. The well-meaning folks around her have suggestions on what to put in her soup and how long it should take, criticizing her methods and telling her she is taking too long, but she sticks to her own recipe, sometimes inviting someone over to taste it with her and sometimes telling people she needs time alone. There is even a woman who seems to be constantly making batches of tear soup that Grandy steers clear of. Her husband makes his own batch and quietly tastes it in the corner, and, even though it is hard for her to leave him alone, she knows that's best. At the end, the hardest day comes, and Grandy puts the tear soup away in the freezer to taste now and then. Her grandson says, "What will I do when you die, Grandy?" And she replies, "I'll leave you my recipe for tear soup." It is a beautiful children's book with big, beautiful illustrations, but its message applies to all grieving and all ages. It was especially helpful to me. I am looking forward to storing my tear soup away, but I can't rush the process. It's hard learning I'll never be truly done with my grieving and tears, although I'll hopefully get them out less often as time goes on. It's funny how some of the simplest lessons in life I never understood until now. I guess there is a lot of learning left to do.

Erik and I sifted through my CD collection this morning and chose Christmas music by the Glenn Miller Band. We wrestled around in front of the stereo a bit and enjoyed the songs as they played. Erik enjoys just hanging out or climbing on me as we listen to music with me on some mornings. When "O Holy Night" started to play, Erik suddenly became still, standing next to where I sat cross-legged on the floor. His blond hair was fluffy and shining, and his cheeks were slightly flushed in beautiful contrast to his ivory skin. I'm not sure what came over me, but the song, the Christmas lights, and the connection with this beautiful child made my heart swell and ache, and tears spilled out of me. I just grabbed him and quietly cried, and he was happy to let me hold him and let the tears soak into his shirt. I'm not sure what kind of cry it was. I guess it was a big ladle of the tear soup I have been making since March of this year. There are a lot more ingredients in the progressively complex broth than there used to be. I cried for Gage. I cried for Anne, a woman with WS whom I loved at first sight but passed away this week at the age of 57 after battling depression for years alone in a nursing home. I cried because I don't know how to write our very first Christmas letter we wanted to send out this year. I cried for the relatives I never got to know. I cried because I love the relatives I do know. I cried because I am so very lucky to have an angel with me in the form of my son who finally calls for his mommy.

I'm thankful, sad, and happy all at once.

I can honestly understand why some people don't do well at Christmas time. It's an intense time for children and adults, when everything from the previous years comes to a head if you stop long enough to have a quiet moment. We think about those we have lost and those who are close. Christmas memories come flooding back, whether you want them to or not. Good or bad, whether you consciously recognize these things or not, they are still with you. The mysterious emotions we feel on the surface have very deep roots in the past that may not be visible. This will be the most meaningful Christmas I have experienced. I'm happy because Christmas to me is a time of rebirth, hope, and unconditional love, and I'm looking forward to the New Year with new strength, because my son has given me all of those things. My eggnog may taste a little salty this year, but I'm okay with that.


Blogger Aspen said...

Nancy, I am sitting here with somewhat of a blank stare at my computer. Holding back my tears with all my might. I am glad you embraced the moment with Erik and let the tears pour out. Sometimes, I feel my body go stiff and can't move until my tears are all dried up.

I love you dearly and I hope this Christmas season turns out to be one of the best you have ever had. Erik will start to understand all that is happening and the joy that surrounds Christmas.

Thank you for opening up your heart to us the way you do. I love you more every day for that. You are a beautiful soul and it comes through in your writing.


10:34 AM  
Blogger Lisa said... SOOOOO need to make these posts into a book. You have a gift for prose.

True...your feelings are uniquely yours...yet they are universal.
I cried because it is such a comfort knowing there are people like you in the world. Someone who is able to so beautifully express your/our feelings in writing. You let all of us who read your blog know we are never alone in our emotions...for whatever reason we feel them.

(I hope that makes sense...please let it make

You bring me tears...

You bring me joy...

What a wonder you are!!

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a big cry today too...Salt is good in the egg nog as long as you don't forget the liquor :)lol

6:02 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

It is those quiet Chirstmas moments that I do love. Sometimes they are a little sad, sometimes they are a little wistful, sometimes they are joyous. But they are always full of meaning... and I think we will all gaze at the holiday lights this year and wonder those "what ifs". But we will always be more grateful over the tiny hands we clasp in ours.

Nance, you are an inspiration to us all, and help us all identify with our own needs. You give us all a voice when our own words don't cut it. Thank you!

Thanks also for that glimpese into your hom.. I can picture Erik soundly listening to the music with you. :)

Love you -K

9:12 AM  
Blogger samuru999 said...

Thank you for the sharing of your heartfelt words!

I love Christmas, but it's also very difficult for me as my mom passed away on Christmas day (5 years ago)

You have a beautiful family!
Thanks for the visit to my place!
I enjoyed your lovely visit!


2:01 PM  
Blogger kathi said...

You have such a gift, the ability to put your heart into words that touch each one of us in the way we need it. I love the way you write, the way you see the world and the way you love what God has given you. I am so thankful for you.

And, please tell lisa it made sense...she's very sensitive. :)

9:17 AM  

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