February 8, 2022

After hiking in the cold with my daughter she offered to make me lunch.  She suggested pizza or a ham sandwich and then with a pause she smiled  “Grilled cheese & tomato soup?”

In a nano second I was back on the farm with my brothers, John, Phil & Dave.  It was a snow day and we had been playing out all morning building forts, racing our sleds down the slope to the barn and battling for “king of the hill” on the top of the snow mound built by the county grader Mr Farris as he opened up the gravel road by our house.    Mom called us in for lunch and served fried “grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup”.  That was the menu many a cold day in the country and it  warmed us up good!

Mom was always cheery as she poured the red brew in our bowls.  She cooked the sandwich’s on a cast iron skillet with lots of butter!  The melting cheese and warm buttery bread gave off a heavenly aroma and we eagerly waited for our sandwich to plop on our plates. 

I took a big bite to break the crust and the butter kissed my lips with love.  After the first bite the toast was dunked deep in the soup and brought dripping to my eager taste buds.

I can still see Phil’s impish grin as the red drops drained down his chin onto his plate below.  The only blond in the family Phil was the quiet one and if he said anything it was going to be coming from a dry sense of humor.

John the oldest was the neat one.  Nothing was going to drip off his mouth.  To no avail he attempted to direct we younger to proper etiquette.  He would eventually shrug, shake his head and eat on.

Dave was like a cat.  He had to play with his food before he ate it.  He would tear his toast up, try to put it back together, throw some of it at the rest of us before he would bathe the pieces in the soup.  He usually left as much as he ate to which Phil or I were happy to finish off.

I would like to tell you I was neat like John but I was known to speckle my shirt as I eagerly devoured my bread & porridge.  At the end we always picked up the bowl in both hands to drain the last drops, everyone but John of course.

Meals were always enjoyed with laugher as we teased each other and bragged who had the biggest sandwich or who could take the biggest bite.   We boyishly competed at everything but were never mean or cruel.  We were a band of brothers thick with love and companionship.  Memories report even cold days to be warm at our house.

“Dad, Dad! What do you want for lunch?” I blinked as my daughter woke me back to the moment.  I sheepishly smiled “tomato soup & grilled cheese”.  She too fried the sandwich in a cast iron skillet with lots of butter and it was every bit as good as mom made it.  

As I cupped the bowl in my hands to seek the last drops I drifted back to that kitchen table for one more look at our little troupe.  I listened to the laughter and watched the antics and comedy of brothers.  John and I are all that are left of 9 who could fight like cats & dogs but never leave a scratch.  Mom is serving them soup and cheese toast up in heaven at this very moment I imagined.  I grabbed a napkin to wipe the drips from my face and turned my head to hide the salty griefs as the drops were clear.  It is puzzling how soft an old heart can be.

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