Monday, February 25, 2008

Potato soup and memories

Last night's potato soup was unspectacular but very delicious. No recipe per se, just throw some vegetables together and simmer for an hour.


Potato soup is a comfort food for me though I'm not sure why. My mother never cooked it but I have very good memories associated with it.

When I was about 11 or 12 my mother went back to work full time as an elementary school teacher. This meant my brother and I were destined to become latchkey kids or..... Mom had to find someone to come in the afternoons to take care of us. I think the first year some lady was hired and she came until school let out in June. When September rolled around we went back to the lady's house and found that she had moved! Now in the little house was a stooped over elderly little lady named Mrs. Cummins. My mother explained that we were looking for the previous owner because she was our "baby sitter" but Mrs. Cummins didn't know where they lady had moved. Mother asked if Mrs. Cummins might be interested in the job and though I don't remember all the details, for years after Mrs. Cummins came to our house every day.

Of course for a 12 year old and a 9 year old, we weren't happy that we had a baby sitter, so Mrs. Cummins became our "housekeeper" though our family wasn't really affluent enough to have a housekeeper. In reality Mrs. Cummins became our "grandmother" though we always called her Mrs. Cummins. I had no grandparents living in California, we were without aunts and uncles and cousins and Mrs. Cummins served the purpose of looking after us and loving us. Every weekday she would come to our house in the early afternoon and maybe run the vacuum cleaner or do some ironing but she was basically around so that when we kids came home that someone would be in the house to welcome us and keep track of us. She often made hot buttered noodles for us (always too much black pepper!) or potato soup. That's where I'm leading up to today. Mrs. Cummins was a much better cook that my mother has ever been and through the years she fed us many wonderful afternoon snacks but potato soup stands out the clearest in my memory.

Our family moved to a different house, but Mrs. Cummins "moved" with us. She was an animal lover and even spent a month every summer living in our house and taking care of our 4 dogs and numerous cats while we went on vacation. She was a vital part of my childhood and I think my mother considered her a mother figure.

Mrs. Cummins working years with us ended when she slipped at our house one day and broke her hip. My father was the first to find her and call an ambulance and by the time Mrs. Cummins had recovered, she decided she was too old to be driving and puttering around our rather large house and besides my brother and I were no longer children. Probably I was already in high school when Mrs. Cummins stopped coming daily.

No matter. My mother considered Mrs. Cummins part of our family and since my grandparents were no longer living we visited Mrs. Cummins weekly and she often made us potato soup when she expected us. I think Mrs. Cummins passed on not long after I came to Japan but she was the "grandmother" that I still think of with a smile and with love.

Thank you Mrs. Cummins! I enjoyed yesterday's soup and memories of you stirring it up in our kitchen!


anne bebbington said...

We too had an elderly lady who lived near us called Mrs Thornton who filled much the same role. One set of grandparents were dead and the others lived a long way away and as I have aunts who are younger than me never felt much like the traditional grandparent role until I was much, much older. This particular lady showed my sister how to make Lemon Curd to spread on toast and I often think of her if I eat it now - taste is so good at resurrecting evocative memories

meggie said...

What a lovely tribute to Mrs Cummins. My real Grandmother filled that role, & she would make us chicken noodle soup, or Pea & Ham as a warm up when we came home cold & weary. You soup sounds nice & I am going to make some!
I love soup, & we always have lots of it in winter.

Nancy said...

A lovely memory of an apparently lovely woman. It is odd, but I have been reflecting back on past influences lately, too.

n, np

The Calico Cat said...

2 things...
Milk, salt, butter, cream - of couse it was GOOD!
second thing, when did you add them in? (Did you bring everything to a boil first? - scald the milk?)

cher said...

lovely when "strangers" become part of your family and give you such wonderful memories.

Shelina said...

What a sweet memory. I was thinking it is kinda dangerous to ask someone to take over a role just because the former resident did it, but it seems like this was meant to be.

I've recently discovered potato soup - I love it but Sushi wouldn't eat it. Now I can have it whenever I want!

Elaine Adair said...

God Bless, Mrs. Cummings. We need to be mindful of our activities, because seeds fall in various places, and one never knows where or how they may sprout. We need to leave bits of kindness where ever we go.

At age 14-15? I had a city, beautiful neighbor who kindly bought me a pretty, spaghetti strapped, full skirted, princess style, turquoise summer dress (old hand-me-downs were MY fate!), complete with beautiful earrings and bracelet. I felt pretty for the first time. To this day I remember that feeling. I've written to that lady (she is now 95, and still beautiful) and told her how much that meant to me.

How kind of YOU to honor the memory of Mrs. Cummings.

Laurie Ann said...

Wow, isn't it wonderful how God brought your family and Mrs. Cummins together? You were meant to take care of each other. God is good!!

Marilyn R said...

Potato soup - I have fond memories of my Mother making it when someone didn't feel well. I still like a bowl of potato soup when I am not feeling well, but mine isn't homemade like hers was. Who wants to cook when they aren't feeling well?