What is it about certain ages that stir our emotions? Emotions that are both jubilant at one end and sometimes bittersweet at the other. You know the ages I’m referring to….1, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 40, 65, 100 (if we should be so lucky). My youngest little buddy just turned 5 and I’m feeling a bit melancholy about it. I don’t know why. Maybe because he is the youngest and I know these stages don’t last forever. He still brings me treasures just like his older brother used to do. Tiny daisies, crumpled dandelions, little rocks and sticks. All of which I slip into my pockets for safe keeping. I tell him that I put them in there to keep the treasures safe and anytime I’m missing him, I just pull one out. He’s at that wonderful age where a flick of your entire hand lets one know how old you are. If he were with you right now he’d tell you that he’s 5, he has two loose teeth and he starts Kindergarten in the fall. He couldn’t be more pleased.
One of my dearest, closest friends recently called. She had been looking at a photograph of the two of us with our eldest daughters. She said to me a little wistfully, “I look at that picture and they just look so much older than I realized. I can’t believe it. Gads.” Our daughters have grown up together since they were babies and I have loved watching them do just that but looking at the photograph myself, I have to admit…they are closer to the women they will become than the little girls they once were. My daughter will be 13 in a month. She’s thrilled. I remember my 13th Birthday well. Who was there. What I was wearing (purple velour.) I loved it. I received a tube of multi-flavored lip smackers and my very own flute. How interesting…how surreal to have your children be an age you remember so well. And if one of my children is that age…what does that make me?
I must have these thoughts in the forefront of my mind. These thoughts about my children growing older. About me growing older. I was in the kitchen with my 10-year old son and I happened to notice the size of his feet. They are enormous. And, out of nowhere, I started singing, “Where is the little boy I carried….” (My own version of the lyrics.) He, of course, was mortified and left the room. Then this weekend, I happened to be at the lovely and sweet wedding of my brother and his beautiful new wife. My son had slipped those big feet out of his normal basketball shoes and into some dapper black loafers. He wore a suit and a tie and had a look of pure confidence on his face. Of utter satisfaction. As he stood at the edge of the aisle, waiting to perform his “ushering” duties, I felt my throat thicken because for the first time, I saw glimpses of the grown-up man he’s headed for. He’s always been “just boy” for me. And, while he still is a young boy, I could see bits of the future in the way he stood.
My parents, my sister, my nephews, and the whole of us were all together last night. Together to celebrate my 5-year old’s Birthday. The grown-ups around the dining room table. The boys at the kitchen table. (My daughter had fled to dance.) While we chatted, enjoyed each delicious spoonful of our spring soup and sipped on glasses of Pinot Gris, the boys tried their best to stay seated and eat but more often than not they were up. Banging out their compositions on the piano. Screeching by in their cars. Asking for more applesauce, more bread, more cold water. We tried out best to ignore the chaos and continue on but it was proving difficult. I had almost reached my limit and was about to pull out the old, “Enough!” but then, I saw the look on my 5-year old’s face. A look of pure joy. Of excitement. That all was as it should be. That the noise and the chaos were part of the celebration. And the fact that his cousins, his Aunt, his Nana and Papa were all in town just for him was reason enough to scream from the top of one’s lungs. How could I put an end to the jubilation? And, how could I not be excited as well? I remember once asking my beautiful mother if she had cried at my wedding and I remember her saying to me, “Why would I have cried? That was such a happy celebration.” Perhaps that’s how I need to think about my children growing older. I need to put aside my melancholy thoughts and allow myself to be swept up in their excitement. Perhaps….or perhaps my mother is just a much stronger woman than I.
A Delightful Spring Birthday Soup
Every year at this time I see recipes for “Potato Leek Soup” spring up by the dozen and every year I’m intrigued to make it; however, I’m not one to want to eat a pot full of warm milk which is essentially how most of those soups are made. So, taking a cue from what was available at our local farmer’s market, I came up with this lighter version of potato leek soup. I prefer the delicate balance of all of the spring flavors in here just as it is but if you’d like to give it a bit more heartiness you could add a cup or so of diced chicken…maybe from a leftover rotisserie chicken. I would also have salt and pepper on the table so each person can give their soup a quick little zing right before eating and believe it or not this soup is delicious with soft-(or hard-) boiled eggs and a little toast on the side. Now, I do have to admit to you that while I made this soup and served it for my little guy’s family Birthday dinner, it was definitely more of a hit with “the chicks,” if you catch my drift.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 small yukon gold potatoes or other thin-skinned spring potatoes, sliced
1/2 c white wine
1 qt water (or 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken broth)
1 cup fresh or frozen petite peas
1 tsp kosher salt
optional: top with minced, fresh chives or minced parsley
Heat heavy bottomed soup pot on stove. Chop up your leeks. Then, add the olive oil to the pot to heat. Once heated add your leeks and salt and saute over med-low heat for about 5 minutes. The leeks should be softened. Add your garlic and saute another minute or so. Add your potatoes and saute them about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, stir in your wine and let the alcohol evaporate from the pot. About 2-3 minutes or so. I can always tell by smelling the rising steam. Once the pungent alcohol smell turns sweet, you know it’s finished. Now, add a quart of water or enough to cover the potatoes, bring to a boil and then, simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Add your peas and simmer another 5 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the peas are just cooked. Spoon into shallow bowls and enjoy.
Yield: Enough to serve a family of 4 and one bird eater. This recipe doubles beautifully.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010