Mom's Chicken Broth

Today, I stand at the stove stirring this month’s batch of chicken broth. The smell permeates the nostrils, filling the entire house, so that a person entering through the front door is hit with the unmistakable sweet “this will make you feel better” smell of chicken soup.

Bones saved from a month’s worth of roasted chicken served at dinners when the chicken was whole and brown with crispy skin dripping succulent aromas. When there was still plenty enough to be asked the question: “white meat or dark?” Bones left on the plates after teeth scraped the last bits of meat or chewed the ends off the leg bone where the cartilage gives way to the sweet marrow buried underneath. I think of my mother who would take no portion for herself saying “I’ll chew your bones.” And she did.  Meal by meal I saved in the freezer the bits and pieces left over from each meal, finally ending with the carcass picked clean free of every bit of meat like a vulture meticulously picks and cleans at the carcass on the side of a road or some other place where something just breathed its last.  I save all this, and more.

So familiar this smell. No! More than familiar—going deep into the marrow of my own bones where memories of mothers and mothering mingle.  These bones, falling apart into tiny bits and pieces as I stir and smell, and feel, and remember. I think about what my mother’s bones must now look like all these years later after they were placed to rest in the dark, deep, earth. And what of her screams of childbirth as I emerged from her womb or the tears she shed and caused throughout my life?  I think of my daughters who ask for my chicken broth recipe and smell their own smells of chicken and bones and other things.  And my granddaughters, who just now are taking what’s been handed down and creating their own recipes. All of it and so much more known and unknown. No need to fill in the blanks. They, too, are buried there. And what of them now?  I muse how my bones, too, like the bones in the pot, will break into tiny pieces and dissolve. And what of the laughter, the hurts, the tears of joy and sorrow I have borne and have caused in my own mothering? What becomes of all these, too, when it’s too late to say all that wanted to be said, all that needed to be forgiven. When what I call “me” blends into the dark, deep soup?