tomato. tomahto.

Monday’s attempt to keep the Doldrums at bay included cooking a new recipe for vegetable soup.  The directions included roasting the leeks, carrots, garlic and tomatoes for 1 hour, or until tender.  When I removed the pan from the oven, the tomatoes were unrecognizable and adhered to the pan.  The outer layer of the leeks were burned to a crisp, the carrots were shriveled and puny, the garlic resembled miniature molted-brown cinder blocks.

Huh.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the second half of the directions instead of relying on the first.

Oh, how I was tempted to throw the whole thing out.  Or, curse my kitchen ineptitude.  There was a panic that set in, triggered by the memory of burned tomato soup I ate at camp one summer that was served along side a severe case of the stomach flu.  Needless to say, the tents all reeked of especially red barf and I still can’t stomach the smell of a traditional tomato soup.

I took a deep breath and thought, okay, how do I go forward?  What’s the worst that could happen?  We all eat cereal for dinner.  So I salvaged what I could from the roasting pan and put it into the stockpot on the stove with the broth.  Then added a few more tomatoes and carrots to the crispy leeks and blackened bricks of garlic cloves to try and make up for what had been lost.  The blending that happened in the final step of preparation broke the pieces of charred skins into tiny little flecks.

I tentatively tasted it.

Huh.  I really, really liked it.  I renamed it fire-roasted tomato soup.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with two wonderful women as we watched our sons dance.  The discussion eventually wound around to parenting, and how we help our children learn in the moment.  One of the mothers related a story in which her child had a friend over to play and wasn’t yielding to the friend’s voiced interests.  There was conflict.  It wasn’t getting resolved.  The Mom quietly pulled her son aside and spoke to him, explaining what was happening and why.  Despite her best effort, her son was not emotionally available to take it in.

The second mother laughed and said that her daughter had discussed something with her husband and then finished by saying “but don’t tell Mom, she’ll lecture me too much about it.”  What she says to her daughter is true and important, yet for the child, too much to comprehend.  We sat quietly, watching through the large glass windows as our sons attempted both strength and grace while learning something new.

My husband and I often joke that we have approximately 35 seconds to get our point across before eyes begin to glaze over and all hopes of being heard disappear.  This isn’t a nod to lack of attention span.  It is a reminder that our children are not students in classrooms with notebooks and pens eager to write down everything we say, as long as it is going to be on the test.  Because the thing is, there is no test.  The semester doesn’t end.  Courses don’t jump from 101 to 201 to 350…to 5500…we learn elementary lessons along side graduate level nuances all of our lives.

I haven’t yet had a chance to tell Cole and Eleanor the story of the soup.  In part, because I’ve been in class the last two nights, but also, I must admit, in part, because I wasn’t sure what lesson I wanted to elucidate.  But that’s the crux of it, isn’t it?  It’s not up to me to determine what message they absorb.  What I do get to decide is what lesson I learn.  I may point out some truths, some insights, but what they take away is uniquely crafted by the alchemy of individuality, age and experience.  And it should be.  Tomato.  Tamahto.  What will it taste like next time?  I’ll keep you posted.

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  • nucleur bomb March 7, 2012, 7:10 pm

    Love this! Especially the “semester doesn’t end” part.

  • jefflmcclenahan March 7, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Beautiful Em. I love this! And send the recipe!

  • Anna March 8, 2012, 6:48 am

    You are such an amazing and wise writer. Thank you for reminding me that I will never fully know which tidbits of my own attempts at wisdom shared will stick in the minds of my children.

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