An inch or so of snow always seems to bring on a bowl Campbell’s tomato soup in this neck of woods. Aisle 4 at the local grocer becomes low on the red and white canned provision. Local radio talk shows get giddy with callers expounding on how they prepare their tomato soup. Do they add water or milk, or, perhaps, prefer rice? A dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of cheddar cheese as garnish? A grilled cheese sandwich or bologna on white on the side? How about Saltines or a round of oyster crackers? Bowl or mug?
Tomato soup has come up in the course of winter related conversation a few times this past week. First, it was in our fellowship hall after church services last Sunday, then, last night as we watched a local PBS show. Both involved winter activities; cross country skiing to be precise – and me!
The PBS show was a half hour feature on how to have fun and brave Chicago’s winters. It was an interesting show about hearty souls who bicycle to work, even in sleet and snow. How about surfing in Lake Michigan in winter. They don’t call this the Windy City for naught. The final segment was all about cross-country skiing.
Contrary to the mobster myths and rush hour madness that surround Chicagoland, there is a really a great deal of open land, with forest preserves and nature areas a-plenty. The weather doesn’t stop us here, though it often slows us down.
Our TV host took us to a forest preserve in Lemont and showed us cross-country skiers. gliding along wooded paths and sleeping prairies, and where to rent skies, how to put them on, how to navigate along in the snow, AND how to fall and get up.
He looked right at me, that Antler Man of mine. A twinkle in his eye and a curl to his lip, and I knew it was coming. It was the same look after church, when he should have been pious. Twice upon a week it was there, and he said “tomato soup!”.
It is an urban legend by now. Others know of it, recall it, and wonder at my skill. I wonder at my skill. It is unmatched.
We had decided to try cross-country skiing. We rented the skis from a television repair shop in town. A nice side business in the
bygone days when folks hauled their Zenith TVs in the back of their cars for new tubes or whatever to make the screen light up again. A television repair shop often had other business interests as well. This one rented skis.
The instructions were swift as a line formed and off we went.The kids with a sitter, the day belonged to us. Our much younger forms were bundled up. Our expectations high. Off we went to Fullersburg Woods. We weren’t alone as we rolled our well-padded bodies out of the car and proceeded into the woods. I fell right away, of course, but, so did Tom. We laughed and kept trying out the skis and the poles. Now, remember, dear reader, that I am not a particularly agile or graceful person and athlete has never been part of my description. I was that girl in gym class who couldn’t get from the first traveling ring to the second. I was the one who fell off of the balance beam and forgot to turn when dismounting the parallel bars. I was the one whose gymsuit got caught in the hurdles.
Really, all I have going for me in the athletic department is a stubborn streak and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
We were finally gliding along, my 5’3″ frame, much sleeker then, working six glides to Tom’s 6’4″ two. Mutt and Jeff on sticks in snow. He was patient and skied behind me often to give me a chance to get my stride – and to help me up. It was one of those times; the last one that he skied behind me. A bridge. A bridge on the path. Now, why would someone put one just there? Okay, it was just a footbridge over a creek, and, by then, I was moving along pretty well. I had the rhythm and was getting my stride, actually, quite proud of myself. Still, a bridge! An incline!
At the foot of the footbridge sat a man and a woman, steam rising from a thermos. He looked at me and I at him and then it happened. I slid, lost my balance – and I landed, full-bottomed, spread eagle, with a bull’s eye aim – right onto the man’s cup of piping hot rosy red tomato soup!
That’s what Campbell’s soups are, mmm, mmm, good!