It was never hard to tell when Sandra was having a hard day. She normally bopped around as if her bones were filled with helium instead of marrow, a constant smile on her face. But when she was down, her body seemed to slump in on itself, as if she was unable to stand up straight.
Today she was curling in on herself as she sat at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. She sighed heavily several times before placing her forehead on the table and allowing her arms to dangle at her sides.
From her body language, Anthony could tell it had been a really rough day.
Anthony slid a bowl of soup across to her.
She shook her head, barely looking up.
“I’m not hungry…”
He nodded in that understanding way he had. Instead of being deterred, he interlaced his fingers and leaned across the table as if he was going to share a secret.
“Well, this is not just a meal to fill your stomach,” he whispered as if their conversation was being recorded, “this is a family recipe that promises to right the wrongs of your day and grant you a fresh start–a do-over of sorts.”
He winked at Sandra, mischief in his eyes. She couldn’t tell if he was exaggerating or making up the whole thing, he normally had the same look whether he was talking about magic soup or the laundry.
“Well then, I guess I’d better eat everything in this bowl,” she said. The slight beginning of a smile neutralized her frown and removed tension from her drooping lids.
Sandra cooled a spoonful of the concoction with a few breaths before tentatively swallowing the possibility of another start to her terrible day.
“Mmm…that’s good,” Sandra said, returning to the bowl for more
This time she ignored the steam and took a bigger helping. Anthony went and filled another bowl for himself, pushing aside the soupbone in order to get more vegetables into the ladle.
Sandra paused, her spoon midair.
“I failed my test today…” she said quietly. “horribly failed my test–and it’s crazy because I studied so hard…I really wanted to do well today…”
Anthony waited a few minutes to see if there was more she wanted to say.
“What’s your secret ingredient,” Sandra asked, her head practically in her bowl.
Anthony stirred the goodness in his own matching bowl, remembering the times he had come home dejected and hurt, and how calming his mother’s soup was to his own soul.
“Love,” he said simply.
Sandra quickly covered her mouth to keep from laughing out the soup in her mouth.
“Hey! It’s been passed down from generation to generation–this soup has stood the test of time,” he defended in mock offense.
Sandra wiped her chin with a napkin.
“Come on, Dad! Be serious.”
“It sounds silly, but someday I hope you realize that love is the one thing you need to be certain you have in order to start things over without feeling ashamed of your mistakes.”
Anthony held her gaze, wanting to write this truth on her soul.
“You made a mistake–did worse than you expected, I understand that. But you are not a mistake. You’re disappointed, but I know you and I know you will do better next time. We’ll keep working at it until you’re where you need to be, but don’t worry, okay?”
He winked at Sandra before giving in to the aroma of leeks, beckoning him to take another bite.
Sandra was quiet for a moment, before she gave him another slight smile and nodded.