There's Just so Much
December 4, 2006
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was worn out so I listened from the couch this time around, all curled up under a blanket. I'd spent the afternoon Christmas shopping, and what a trip that was. I know better. Tuesday night is a good time to shop in December; Saturday afternoon is not. Well, what the heck, I thought that morning, and went, and made some real progress. I listened to Christmas music in the car, and hummed my way through Target and Menards and Gander Mountain and the candle shop and Mimi's House of Treats. I bought wrapping paper and ribbon, new pajamas for the kids, a big red shovel for Mr. Sundberg, and another dozen or so gifts. Including milk chocolate covered cherries for me. I took my sweet time and ran into a friend here and there, but people were, for the most part, focused on what place next and how quickest to get there.
There was one woman, though, who wasn't in such a hurry. She was standing in the light bulb aisle at Target, leaning against the shelf of fluorescent bulbs with her face in her hands, weeping quietly. I passed by several times, thinking she'd pull it together and move on, but she didn't, so I went on over and asked whether there was anything I might do for her. "No, no, I'll be fine," she said, and she looked at me and her poor eyes were puffy and her hands were shaking as she wiped her tears away. "I'm having a rough time, that's all. There's a lot. There's just so much," she said, and cried some more. I dug in my purse and gave her a travel pack of Kleenex I got as a free sample in the mail. You know, I told her, I believe I've been where you are. Many times. And I imagine I'll find myself there again. But you know what helps? "What?" she asked, and blew her nose. Well, I just ask myself what's the worst thing that could happen, and I imagine that very worst thing, and it dawns on me that I could handle it. The very worst thing. And that makes the rough time seem less rough, since it could be a lot worse. "Huh," she said, and blew again, and let out a big ol' sigh.
As I left the store, I saw her in the parking lot unloading two full carts into a banged-up plum-colored minivan. Bulk diapers (three different sizes) and paper towels, a case of formula, rolls and rolls of Santa paper, an industrial-size bottle of antacid, laundry detergent, more diapers, several cases of diet pop, and on and on. She hit the nail on the head. There IS a lot. I walked on over and told her I hope she has a Merry Christmas. She smiled and said, "Thank you, Ma'am, and Merry Christmas to you, too." I reached into my bag and pulled out the box of chocolate covered cherries. Happiness is always just around the corner, I told her, and if it feels farther away than that, try these. And I handed them to her and that was that. A sparkly mist of snow fell as I drove home, singin' along with Burl Ives, and Bruce Springsteen, remembering when I was "Miss" and not "Ma'am," back when the kids were younger and I was, too, and there was just so dang much.
Mrs. Sundberg's Wild Rice Soup
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
2 T butter or margarine
1 medium onion, minced or chopped, as you wish
1 quart milk (this would be 4 cups)
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 lb Velveeta cheese
Optional: 10 strips crisp bacon, crumbled, or 1 cup (give or take)
cooked and shredded chicken or ham.
Mmm, this is going to be good.
Prepare wild rice in separate saucepan according to package directions and set aside.
In large 4 qt saucepan or soup pot, sauté the onion in the butter until tender (I brown the heck out of that onion). If you're adding meat, this is a good time to do so. Add the milk and potato soup, and adjust the heat to medium. When it's hot, add the cheese in chunks, and once the cheese melts, add the wild rice.
Simmer a while, and serve.
Bacon can be used as a garnish.
For variety, you might want to sauté a few mushrooms with the onions.