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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Adrienne on October 15, 2015

Memory Soup

She stood over the boiling pot in the kitchen, wondering what ingredient to add next.
The steam wafted up, dancing through her senses as she took a deep breath willing the familiar calm of the recipe passed down for three generations to take her back to a more peaceful time.

A memory pushes through, of her grandmother, wearing a loose fitting dress, standing over the stove on a cool fall morning. She remembers her mother out in the garden, thoughtfully sorting through the rest of the fall harvest, carefully sorting the over-ripe for canning, the perfectly plump for freezing. She saw herself in this image, a child, sitting on the rug near the fireplace, slowly filling in the blanks of an intricate design with her colored pencils.

She picks up the celery she has been absentmindedly chopping, and gently sweeps it into the pot with the knife. Another blast of steam hits her, with a deep inhale, she realizes she's almost go it.

She closes her eyes for a moment, and an older memory of herself appears. Her grandmother is absent from the picture, but the leaves are turning and her and her mother are back in the kitchen. This time, her mother working over the large soup pot, working from memory and a faded hand written recipe, she is quiet as she seems to be savoring this connection with her mother, who passed away the previous winter. She's a teenager now, bored with the scene, thinking that there are so many more important things to life-friends, boys, the social scene-what's so special about a bowl of soup?

Thirty years have passed by since that memory. So many things have changed. She thinks of the friends, the boys, and the social scene back then, and smirks to herself at how insignificant it all was. She chides her past self for not realizing the beauty of the moment she was in, and thinks what she would give to go back to that moment, stand next to her mother at the stove, and put a hand on her shoulder, providing presence and comfort to her mother, who looks so alone in the memory.

She sniffs the pot, still something missing. What she wouldn't give in this moment to be able to turn to her mother and ask her what was missing, what she needed more of, if the faded line on the recipe card that had survived 60 years was a teaspoon or a tablespoon. What she wouldn't give to have one more opportunity to watch her mother over the stove, carefully measuring ingredients and verifying the recipe's accuracy though smells and small sips of the broth, to ensure the right consistency.

The sun cast a shadow over the kitchen. The long tree branches outside the window danced in the wind as the leaves rustled down. She walked over to the window, looked at the overgrown garden, feeling guilty in her neglect of the small patch of nutrition that her mother and grandmother had worked so hard to maintain. She noticed some long stalks with the last remnants of blossoms near the back corner. She pushed open the screen door and walked barefoot to the corner of the patio. The last migrating butterfly of the season lit from plant to plant before being carried up by a gust of wind. She grabbed one of the stalks and firmly pulled. A plump, golden onion uprooted from the ground. She smiled as she brushed the dirt off it. With an upward glance and a silent thank you to the women who came before her, she went inside to finish the soup, cherishing the recipe for comfort and love that was selflessly given to her without her knowledge.

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