Tomato Soup

It’s that time of year when our kids have gone back to school. Admittedly, it’s been a number of years since Janet and I had school age children, but now we have grandchildren who are in school or, as in the case of our youngest one, Drew, who will be starting school in several years.

And with the weather getting a little cooler, and allergies kicking into high gear, and the school buses once again dotting the landscape each morning and afternoon, I can’t help but think back to the times in my own life when September signaled the return to the classroom. I attended Sutherland Elementary School, between 100th and 101st Street, facing Leavitt Avenue, in the Beverly Hills, Chicago neighborhood I grew up in. Janet went there also, as did my two brothers and her two sisters.

In those days, you pretty much had to live more than a mile from school in order to ride the bus, so Janet and I both walked home for lunch. Janet lived about a block north from the school and I lived about 3 short blocks west of the school. The bell for lunch rang at noon, and by the time I got home, it was about 12:15 pm. Mom would have lunch ready for my brother Doug and me; and we had to leave around 12:35 to get back in plenty of time for the bell at 12:50 signifying the the time for us to enter the school and prepare for the afternoon session, which began promptly at 1:00 pm.

Sometimes, Mom would have things to do during the lunch hour; like when she went downtown or went shopping, or had to go to the doctor. Then Grandma would pick Doug and me up from school and take us to my grandparent’s home for lunch. We also knew if last minute plans had been made with Mom after we left for school. That’s because my grandfather had a 1955 Lincoln automobile that my mother referred to as the “Green Monster.” She thought it was ugly and way too big for Grandma to drive, but if we were heading the Grandma’s for lunch, there was only one way to get there, and that was a ride in the Green Monster. It was this huge four door car, and you couldn’t miss it parked in front of the school, usually first in line, when we left at the noon bell. I’m sure that was because Grandma always got there early, to make sure we knew we were going to have lunch with her that day.

And almost all the time, we knew what was for lunch. Auntie Lou, who lived with my grandparents, would also be there, and it was amazing how Grandma and Auntie Lou demonstrated their love for us each mealtime. You see, Doug loved Campbell’s Cream of Celery soup, and I much preferred Cream of Tomato. I just couldn’t stand the stringy celery, and Doug didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t any “crunch” in tomato soup. Back in those days, Doug and I didn’t agree on much, and so both soups were prepared each lunch at Grandma’s. Of course, there were also grilled cheese sandwiches as well. To this day, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches still constitute one of my favorite lunches.

The menu rarely varied. Grandma would bring us home to her house, and Auntie Lou, who was also Grandma’s age, would be busy with her apron on, cooking lunch. Then we all sat down together in the kitchen; Doug and I always sat across from one another – with Grandma to my right and Auntie Lou to my left, anchoring the ends of the table.

Then came grace – you know the one: “God is great, God is good; Let us thank Him for our food, Amen.” Doug and I would alternate each time we were there. We were always served – we could never get our own meal, or take our dishes to the sink. I think Grandma thought school was enough of a chore for us. Then, when lunch was over, we washed our hands, and piled back into the Green Monster for the ride back to school. All too soon, it was over, and afternoon classes were back in session.

I liked going to Grandma’s for lunch – but we were never surprised about what lunch would be. To this day, to the best of my knowledge, Doug still loves cream of celery soup and even though I eat it on occasion, its still not my favorite. I always think of those lunches with Grandma, though.

So, today, in honor of those early biblical mandates, the verse comes from Exodus 23:25, “Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water…..” This is one of the commandments that God gave to His people as they were learning about what life would be like following God. God would put His hedge of protection around the people and bless them, including their food and water.

God is still blessing us today. My encouragement is to remember to thank the Lord for the meals that you receive – from Him. How easy it is to forget the source of our blessings and our sustenance. My prayer is that we, as a society, may return to a more God centered lifestyle, and that our appreciation for what we have been provided may be on our lips every time we sit down to eat – even if it isn’t tomato soup…..


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