When we must be apart from the ones that we are so very close to, it can leave us feeling a little broken-hearted and vulnerable; and those are the moments when a simple bowl of hot, creamy chowder is craved—it comforts, soothes and nourishes the soul, and feels like a warm hug from within.
It's hard to believe that well over a year ago now my husband and I were very enthusiastically preparing to attend our son's graduation from Marine Corps boot camp after not seeing him for 13 weeks.
We were so excited to bring him home for a short leave (after all, this was the longest we had ever been apart!) before further training would take place for him, and before he would subsequently be folded into his permanent unit.
My, how time seems to have flown since then...
This adventure has been an interesting one for us, as we each individually have had to adjust in our own, unique way to life as a military family, with its array of colors and its last-minute ups and downs.
And while we're fortunate that we live relatively close to the base where our son is stationed, which makes it easier to see each other on his free weekends, it can therefore make being apart more difficult too.
And apart is exactly where we find ourselves in this particular season of life.
We all knew that this day was coming, this day when our son would be going on deployment.
In the beginning, we still had many months ahead of us to get accustomed to the idea, dipping our toes into the pool, so to speak, slowly easing our way into this knowingness, especially my husband and I as parents.
But as the date approached, we had to start talking about the logistics of things, and helping our son get affairs in order for his time away.
It became apparent that we could no longer push back the reality that we'd be far away from each other with very little communication, for quite a long period.
Our time for this difficult and painful thing called “goodbye” had finally come.
Since our son had brought his car home to store it with us while away, we were blessed to be able to have that little bit of extra time with him, and to drive him back to base where we would have to give our final hugs and kisses.
Every moment seems to count in situations like these.
Before we left the house for the last time with him, we let the tears flow a little more openly than we knew we'd be able to once we got onto base, and had a prayer together asking for his safety, his strength, and his return home to us.
And once our dog Lola got a few little scratches and some last-minute lovin' from our son who sniffled back a few tears for her, we each took a deep breath, picked up his things and off we went, walking off of our porch and into what felt like the unknown.
We decided to take the long way back to drop him off, a way that we used to take together when we would take him back to base before he had his car there with him, and the memories came flooding in for all of us as we drove.
It was a late night drive there, the dark skies and the stars enveloping us.
Our car was filled with music our son chose to play, songs he knew we'd all enjoy listening to together: Sting, The Police, Thomas Dolby, REM, Pink Floyd, and some “first wave” from the 80's.
It seemed that each song he chose had lyrics that were meant to communicate something specific to us, something that he wanted us to know about him.
It was hard for me to not get teared up sitting there in the back seat, listening to the songs play, knowing that with each exit we passed, we were getting closer to dropping him off and not seeing him for many, many months; and yet, as we all sat there in our pregnant silence, just taking in the music, there was also the knowingness that our bond was unbreakable and that time apart would have nothing on us.
But still...the gravity of it all...
Once we finally arrived on base and pulled into the parking lot where our son's housing is, we knew that these final goodbyes would have to be quick; it would be the least painful way to part, and it certainly helped that we were in close vicinity to other Marines as well as our son's buddies.
This was not the time for too many tears from mom, nor too much emotionality in general, understandably.
We all hugged each other, said “I love you” and “see you before you know it”; and before we knew it, he gathered up all his things from the trunk and made his way through the parking lot to the barracks, while my hubby and I were left to watch him disappear into the corridor.
Boy…that was tough.
My husband and I cried as we drove away in the chaparral-scented darkness of the black night, now a little lighter for the load, with my boy's cologne still lingering on my passenger side seatbelt.
Why do goodbyes have to be so darned hard…?
I guess it's all the uncertainties, and the moments that one feels one will never get back again.
It's hoping that all that needed to be said, was said; that all that needed to be expressed, was.
As I write this post, please understand that this is all still quite fresh for me, and even a bit surreal; it's an incredibly vulnerable space to be in, especially for a me as a mother.
It is new territory, but I plan on honoring it the best way I know how, which is by contributing love and something of value to others as much as I possibly can during this time apart.
It's helping to keep the home-front strong, healthy, and alive—thriving—for both my husband and I, as well as for our son, as best as possible.
It's sharing and empathizing with as many others as much as I can, and putting my focus outside of what is being missed and any worry that comes with it.
So with all of that being shared, I'd love to offer up this recipe for a bowl of warm comfort that is so very needed right now, a bowl of creamy chicken chowder with warm drop biscuits; and I offer it up in the spirit of that desire to sooth and to be soothed, that desire to nourish and to be nourished—it just seems like the perfect thing for this moment.
It's for every one of us who is needing a little coziness to be present in our lives right now, and for a little warmth and uplift, a little hug, to be ingested in order for strength to be found, and for care and for connection to be tasted.
Thank you for allowing me this space to share the happenstances and experiences of this wild and crazy—yet beautiful—life with you; it's ups and downs, and everything in between.
Thank you for sharing in these moments with me.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Creamy Chicken Chowder with Autumn Vegetables and Drop Biscuits
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 6
• 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 rib celery, diced small
• 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
• 1 parsnip, peeled and diced small
• 2 cups small-cubed butternut squash
• 3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
• Pinch white pepper
• 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
• 3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 12 level tablespoons)
• 6 cups hot chicken stock
• 1 cup half and half (or heavy cream, if preferred)
• 3 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken for this—ideal!)
• ½ cup corn kernels
• ¼ cup peas
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
• Chive Drop Biscuits (recipe below), to accompany
-Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat, and add in the butter; once melted, add in the onion, celery, carrot, and parsnip, and saute for a few moments until the vegetables begin to sweat and soften.
-Add in the butternut squash, plus the garlic, the pinch of salt, black pepper, white pepper, and the Herbs de Provence, and stir to incorporate; sprinkle in the flour, and again, stir to incorporate well, stirring for about a minute or so just to cook out the raw flavor of the flour.
-Pour in the hot chicken stock, and whisk very vigorously to incorporate the flour into the stock, and to avoid lumps from forming; once whisked smooth and slightly thickened, turn the heat down to medium-low, and allow the chowder to simmer gently for about 20 minutes or so, just until the veggies are tender; then, turn off the heat.
-Add in the half and half, the cubed or shredded cooked chicken, the corn kernels, the peas and the chopped parsley, and stir to combine; check to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed, and serve while hot with the Chive Drop Biscuits.
Chive Drop Biscuits Ingredients:
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teapsoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
• 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
• 2 tablespoons minced chives
-Preheat the oven to 425°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, the salt, pepper and sugar; drizzle in the melted butter and the buttermilk, and sprinkle in the minced chives, and stir together just until the ingredients are combined (don't over-mix to keep the dough fluffy).
-Using a tablespoon, drop heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 14-16 minutes, or until the biscuits are a pale-golden, and puffy; enjoy warm.