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Postcards

“Your father traveled a lot.” She smiled. “In some ways, though, it seemed like he was here. He sent postcards and letters from everywhere he ended up, at least once a day, sometimes more. He was very involved even when he was across the country. Open a box!”

He pulled the top box from the pile and took off the lid. Four stacks of postcards were arranged to fit neatly. He picked up a small stack and flipped through them.

“Welcome to Sunny California!” proclaimed the first over a picture of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. The other side was a chatty, cheerful note about tourists wearing shorts and obviously just-purchased sweaters. There was also a promise of chocolate, and he had a vivid memory of the dark, slightly bitter taste of the small pieces, carefully doled out to make them last.

A picture of a desert with mesas on the horizon, with a description of the heat in Phoenix making the roads a little bit soft, was next. “I went for a walk before the sun came up and the ground was still hot from yesterday!”

The next, a picture of pouring rain seen through the windshield of a car, had a different tone. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. I miss you both so much. I’ll be home soon after you get this and they’ve promised at least a month with no travel. We can catch up and I’ll fix everything around the house. I can tuck Nate in every night, too.”

He showed that one to his mother, and she teared up and sniffed, then smiled. “We were lucky that time. He didn’t have to ship out for six months. It was so nice to have that much time with him.” Her smile turned to a grin. “Well, except for his socks left all over the house. Small price to pay, though.”

He reached back in and picked one at random. A picture of Hawaii from the air, with “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful” across the top. The back read, “Hi, darling. I can send this because I know you’ll laugh. You are the best part of my life, and I can imagine your smile as you read this.”

He looked up and saw that his mother had gone back to sleep. He opened another box and settled in. When she woke up, they’d go through more memories. She was in her last few days, and he wanted her to be as happy as possible. For all the times his father had been gone, he did make her happy.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “”The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”” and I challenged R.L.W. with “”We are, all of us, in the gutter…but some of us are looking at stars.” – Wil Wheaton”

Comfort food

Stew sounded good tonight, but we didn’t have anything that seemed perfect to go into a stew, so I decided to skip perfection and just see what came out.

We have friends who hunt, and periodically we trade fresh bread for fresh meat. Some of it ends up in the freezer because we can’t finish all of it at once. One of the packages was elk stew meat, already chopped up into small-ish chunks. That seemed like a good place to start.

We always have stock of one sort or another, so I found beef stock and added that to my idea. Potatoes and carrots, which we generally have, were next, so I peeled the carrots, washed the potatoes, and chopped them. I found a can of stewed tomatoes and chopped those up, too. Oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, bay, and a few cloves of garlic went in, as did salt and pepper. I decided I wanted more tomato once everything was cooked, so I added in some tomato paste, both as thickener and to get more of a tomato base.

It’s good. It isn’t amazing, but it suits my needs right now. I needed comfort food, and tomato soup is something that generally helps my state of mind. This is more like stew, but it fits. I remember, when I was little, when it rained we would get to go outside and play in the rain. When we came in, we’d dry off and climb into warm clothes, and by the time we came back up there would be tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches waiting for us. I don’t know how many times it happened, but that’s a memory that is comforting on many levels. I wanted a piece of that memory tonight. I didn’t want an exact replica, since I was not in the mood for grilled cheese, but the stew helped.

Sometimes food helps ground me. It reminds me of simple pleasures. Cooking something and then eating what I have cooked makes me happy, too. It is more satisfying than buying soup in a can or at a restaurant. I can spice it exactly to my taste, make as much or as little as I want, and add random things as they strike my fancy. I am still not used to throwing food together without a recipe, but I had fun tonight, and the results were quite good. I have lunch for a few days, too.