A Heart So Loved by Jaye Lewis
It was our second winter on the farm. I was a nineteen year old college drop-out, and the only one bringing home a paycheck. Even in 1965 fifty dollars a week did not stretch very far. Between my father’s unemployment and my meager salary, we could barely make our mortgage payments, utilities, and car payment. We struggled valiantly, and to tell you the truth, it was just plain hard.
Thankfully, someone had given us some egg-laying chickens the summer before, and we were able to scrape by with a poorly planned stockpile of home canned and frozen vegetables and eggs. We had plenty of eggs. We had eggs for breakfast. I took eggs for lunch. And, of course, there were eggs for supper. Winter in Michigan begins early, and by mid-February, I was certain I would never see the ground again. I hoped to never see another egg.
I dreaded that first step into the house every evening after work. I dreaded the smell of fried eggs, and I was pretty certain that I would live in bondage, forever, merely existing from paycheck to paycheck. Surely I’d never see a penny to call my own. I could not see the bottom of our poverty, and I could not stand another day of that cold and endless winter.
One evening, at what I perceived was the bottom of my life, I wearily dragged myself from the car, through the snow, and up to the front door of our house. God, would this depression I felt never end? Reluctantly, I opened the front door, and a sudden appetizing smell assaulted my nostrils. What was that delicious odor? Had I died and gone to heaven? Had we killed the fatted calf? Did we even have a fatted calf?
Suddenly, my mother swung into the living room, a brilliant smile lighting up her features. Waltzing up to me, she slipped a clean dish towel around my neck, and she led me to an easy chair, right by the fire. She pulled over the old piano stool, for an impromptu table, and she motioned me to sit down.
“I’ll just bring you your eggs.” Gulp! Eggs! Not again! Mysteriously my mother hurried to the kitchen, insisting that I close my eyes. With eyes tightly shut I tried to imagine just what was going on with this strange and wonderful woman who was my mother. My mouth watered at the tantalizing smells that assaulted my senses.
“Okay. Open! “My mother commanded, merrily. I opened my eyes as my mother placed a giant cheddar cheese soufflé on the makeshift table before me. It was beautiful! Perfect! Heavenly! Happiness and peace flooded through me, as I realized that my mother did this great thing just for me. Just to make me feel appreciated and loved.
We both dove into that luscious cheese soufflé, smiling and sharing moments that shone far greater than wealth or substance. One small kindness. A moving picture that said more than a thousand words.
“I thought that you might be tired of eggs,” my mother grinned, acknowledging my struggle and despair in a way that transcended any ordinary spoken platitudes.
I don’t remember when my father finally found a job or when we ate meat again. After all, it’s been more than forty years since that day. However, I can honestly say that I’ve never tasted any dish that has eclipsed the flavor of my mother’s thoughtful kindness. Bathed in the warmth of her surprise, I doubt that my stomach has since felt so satisfied nor my heart so loved.
© Jaye Lewis, 2006
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