The Ring

Kelly Salasin

Contributor, Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter Soul

When the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing came around, I found myself in the kitchen preparing some of her favorite dishes. I hadn’t planned this, but there I was one hot August afternoon, making her famous soup from the turkey I had roasted the day before.

As I poured myself into cooking, some of the deep sadness I was experiencing at this one-year mark moved through me. I loved my mom’s turkey soup, how she cooked the egg noodles right in the broth, and how they soaked it up and tasted almost like dumplings I remembered the time she made some especially for me. It was summer then, too, and I had a terrible head cold. She arrived unexpectedly one afternoon at my work place with a huge jar of her turkey noodle soup. I thought about the bread she used to bake and about how much butter she would slather on it, and how we loved to dip it into the broth. I began to feel a little more buoyant amidst the pain of losing her

.

While the noodles boiled in the broth in my kitchen, I realized that I was reconnecting with my mother through food. I laughed a bit at myself when I reflected on all the dishes I had cooked that week. Without knowing it, I had created a beautiful ritual to honor my mother and to comfort myself at this vulnerable time. I suddenly felt my mother at hand and was filled with her presence. I was so uplifted and excited that I began talking to her, imagining she were there

“What else should we make?” I asked of us both, wanting to keep the ritual from ending.

“Irish Potato Pancakes,” was the reply.

I hesitated. The thought of these brought up another loss. The last time I made potato pancakes was two and a half years ago. I had taken off my engagement ring to make the dough, and never found it again. Since then, I resisted using that recipe even though I really liked those pancakes. It’s sort of silly, but whenever I considered making them, I felt resentful of their participation in my loss, as if they were partly to blame.

My mom should know better than to suggest these, I thought. (I don’t even remember her ever making them.) She knew how upset I was about losing my ring. I had always called her whenever I lost something, even when I was away at college, even from across the country, even when I traveled abroad. She had a knack for helping me find my way to lost things, except for this time.

But despite these hesitations, I found myself caught up in the joy and celebration of the moment, and I reached for the cookbook without another thought of the ring. My mom did love Irish things, and these were delicious. I opened the large coffee-table cookbook and turned to the pancake recipe. At once, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye… It sparkled! I gasped in utter amazement! There, pressed into the pages of this book, was my diamond ring!

Chills ran up and down my body as my mind raced to ponder how this was at all possible. Hadn’t I used the book for other recipes in the course of almost three years? Wouldn’t the ring have slipped out during the packing and unpacking of two household moves? Hadn’t I checked the book for the ring when I had lost it?

My mind was subdued as my heart overflowed with the magic of gratitude and wonder. I slipped my ring onto my trembling hand, and a smile filled my soul as I whispered, “Thanks Mom.”

That day, I made potato pancakes in the shape of hearts.

The Precious Power of Tears

“The cure for pain is in the pain. Good and bad are mixed.

If you don’t have both, you don’t know yourself.” Rumi

kelly salasin

I feel drawn to write about the power of tears–though I am an unlikely candidate.  I can count the times I’ve cried in the past thirty years.   And yet perhaps it is my resistance to tears that makes it possible for me to clearly mark their impact.

At 5 years of age, my tears were met with threats,  “I’ll give you something to cry about!” At 7, they provoked a slap, “Calm yourself down, right now!” At 9, they were interrogated, “Why are you crying?” At 11, they were shamed, “You’re acting like a baby.”  At 13, I began to hide them; and at 14, I turned them off altogether.

It was in the weeks following the untimely death of my grandmother that I was told my grief was self-indulgent.  I didn’t cry again for years, not even in the late seventies, when tear-jerking films like Kramer vs. Kramer were the norm.  I prided myself on this steeliness and girded it through all manner of life’s passages including the death of pets and the moving-away loss of friends.

At 19 however, I could hold off no more. Trauma was piled upon trauma as my father’s absence met my mother’s affair, met my parents divorce, met the loss of our house, met my mother’s drinking, met my father’s indifference, met our family’s collapse.  Despair eroded the wall of my guarded heart and I cried three times in one year–and the tears became mine.

Those early cries were uncontrollable gushes of despair, but over time they came with greater ease, leaving behind treasures for my keep.

I’ve never forgotten the quiet stream of grief shared with my younger sister in the wreck of our family. I reached across the table for her hand, carving out a lifelong path of love that flowed between us.  Though things didn’t get easier for a long, long time, we drank from this well of mutual compassion and were sustained by it.

As the years passed, my tears grew in their strength and helped me wash away things like pride and regret and fear–offering a husband, a home and a child in return.  The gift of writing followed tears of anguish in the loss of my mother; and tears of frustration brought me to loving my father without cause.  Though my tears frequently accompanied pain, they were always full of giving which allowed me to relax into them again and again as they found their away around my resistance.

Just yesterday, I was relieved to find myself crying in the very moments following a deep emotional gash. I sobbed a watershed of tears—both old and new, and this time was gifted with the compassionate presence of my 14-year old son.  He sat down beside me on the front porch stairs and rubbed my shoulders as I wept.

This oldest son is as steely as his mother and I realized that my tears, however pain-filled, were a teacher for him too.  Gratitude replaced my anguish as he tenderly kissed me on the neck.

Seven years earlier we had another family lesson in compassion when he shattered a treasured mug that my late mother had given me.  Surprising the entire family, I ran from the kitchen to the couch with loud sobs.

Seeing me cry caused Lloyd to cry and he joined me on the couch in a chorus of cries as his two year old brother cried too without needing to know why. My husband came upon us last, and stood there before us, confused, not knowing what to “do;” and I began to laugh.

Why are you happy, Mom?” Lloyd asked through his sobs, “You’ll never be able to drink from Mom-mom’s mug again.”

But now I have this,” I told him with a squeeze.  “Now I have this memory of our tears together, and that is more precious than any gift.”

I can’t help but wonder if this memory came to him as he sat beside me on the stairs yesterday afternoon.  I have great hope that in his growing strength he’ll come to know the precious power of his “owned” tears.

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