I didn’t grow up on Campbell’s soup but my childhood home was never without a variety of cans either. It was a quick fix if I came home for dinner (noon meal in Iowa speak) instead of eating hot lunch at school (we lived a block away). School lunch hours were not an hour (they lied) and it took too long to bake a chicken pot pie or Swanson’s Turkey TV dinner, my favorite, which was reserved for Sunday’s-after-church-dinner when mom worked weekends.
No microwave, had to use a saucepan on our gas stove. I was partial to 3 varieties, Chicken Noodle, Vegetable Beef and my favorite, Bean with Bacon. (The chicken noodle and vegetable beef were both guaranteed to contain 3 ‘red hot’ sized morsels of meat per can. This has been verified numerous times by my quality control department-me. However no bacon was ever documented but the smokey pork aroma wafted upward as the can opener did its job).
I don’t remember if there were other brands of canned, condensed soups at the Koster’s Market but if there were, mom was loyal to Campbell’s. She loved casseroles (dad, not so much) and used condensed soups as the agent that held/brought everything together. The cook book she used most often was from Western Christian High School. I swear every other recipe (other than cookies and cakes were made with some kind of canned cream soup). But mom was funny about what flavor soups she used too.
She never used Cream of Mushroom soup, not even in Thanksgiving green bean casserole. She thought the mushroom taste was overpowering and substituted Cream of Celery or Cream of Chicken in everything. Ok, guess who has 2 cans of Cream of Mushroom in the house while storing 6-8 cans each of-Cream of Celery & Cream of Chicken? (I am my mother’s daughter after all).
Canned soups weren’t eaten very often because mom excelled at homemade soups, using dried navy beans or whole peas after soaking those little rocks overnight in (melted pristine white snow collected from our backyard) with a ham bone or pork hocks. Chicken soup and Vegetable beef rounded out her rotation of winter soups on our menu. We never had chili (although my dad loved it) and tomato soup from scratch or a can has never crossed my lips (and I love, love tomatoes) which is kinda weird.
I’ve been pretty lucky (blessed) with decent health my whole life. It’s rare when I don’t feel pretty darn good physically, but I’ve been under the weather for a few days. Something I caught from the Hubs who brought it into this house last weekend from Detroit. Not Covid, not upper respiratory, just achy limbs, muscles, nauseous tummy and hurting head. I slept Thursday and Friday away, another oddity for the gal who generally gets 5 hours a night. To let you know how lousy I felt, I fell asleep during the Iowa Hawkeye game Thursday. Well we were getting shellacked by Purdue, but still. I did manage to stay awake through my grandson’s Landon’s Friday night basketball game (on TV) which ended up being a nail biter (we won and he had a good game).
My normally over-zealous appetite has been missing in action. I drank a half a cup of tea on Thursday during the time frame I managed to stay awake. While John was eating I went into another room and covered my face with a cloth napkin to avoid the smell of food. Nothing sounded good, even after my stomach started complaining about being ignored and empty too long. There seemed to be a metallic taste in my mouth-blech. But Friday I had tea with a slice of toast and a small bowl of soup (pea-my only homemade left) and didn’t feel as bad. Saturday morning coffee smelled good again. By lunch I felt hungry but the homemade soups in the freezer consisted of chili-egg drop-or clam chowder, umm that would be a sure-fire no on all three (those are Hubs favorites, not mine and how did I get so low on my soups? I usually keep a supply on hand).
So what could I eat? Grilled cheese sounded kinda good. I haven’t made one in a long time, and I keep Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup on hand for Hubs. Again something I’ve not eaten in years. With that plan I headed to the kitchen.
Threw the soup in a cup into the microwave and fried a grilled cheese. After 15 minutes of diligent searching I managed to find the 2-3 microscopic pieces of chicken (one might have split in half) in my can of soup so I didn’t get cheated there. Made sure I ate them both although it was hard to tell, they slid down easily with the salty broth. The grilled cheese tasted good with a couple sips of my first Diet Pepsi in 3 days. Kinda disappointed in the soup. Hubs was equally disappointed when he saw I left over half of it.
By Saturday my appetite was back and I was feeling well enough to spend time in the kitchen. It seemed criminal to use a 12 dollar roast for a pot of soup but the days of a boneless chuck roast for $2.49 a pound are long gone and I was craving Vegetable Beef Barley. M’m M’m good…
I’ve written oodles of stories during the last 8 years of blogging. The majority are about my life. There’s been sweet, angry, poignant, depressing, prank filled and mundane stories. Several have been about death starting with the loss of my brother when I was 7, plus other close relatives and friends, but deaths from illnesses or accidents are part of life. Very different than taking someone’s life.
You couldn’t get more blasé than me. A small town Iowa girl, my life has been uneventful, which makes a couple stories I’ve written seem otherworldly. Both stories revolve around murders. Me, familiar with people who actually have been murdered or killed someone. Hard to reconcile that.
We moved here 7 years ago after living 160 miles west for 22 years. I wanted to stay connected to the Muskegon area because it’s the longest we’ve stayed in one spot. Besides routinely visiting an easy way I could keep up was reading their daily newspaper. There’s several Michigan cities newspapers owned in the same conglomerate and if you subscribed to one you could read any or all of them. As my default location I picked Muskegon’s paper (online) while a couple days a week we got a hard copy of our local paper. Trying to keep my foot in the door of both places I guess.
While it may sound dreary or downright depressing one of the main reasons I kept track of Muskegon Chronicle is because of the obituaries. I was a Parish Visitor (routinely visiting folks who no longer attended church regularly) for a decade. I want to know when someone from my past passed.
As soon as I saw her name it was like a punch to the gut. Truth be told, I had not thought of her once in a couple years. I wrote the story 5 years ago. Now there’s at least 100, maybe 200 stories that I have trouble coming up with the title I gave when I wrote it. A silly lyric, TV title, or catchy phrase and while perusing my old posts and would have to read a paragraph before it all came back to me. But definitely not when I saw her name. I remembered immediately the name of the story I had written and put it in my WordPress search. “Fringe friends.” No go.
Now that threw me for a minute, but I didn’t hook up with WordPress until 2019. My son Josh (the tech guru) set it up for me and we both assumed we’d transferred all my stories from June of 2014 until I bought into WordPress but the story was not there. I went back to my former blogging app called blogspot.com and found it in April of 2018. A double homicide and a suicide, and I knew 2 of the dead people. It was a hard story to write and still hard to read it again 5 years later.
I used only first names of the adults involved when I wrote the story and purposely left out the names of their 2 surviving, school age children, but did mention their names were unusual. Now a few years later that young family of four is down to one. Just a horrific tragedy.
For months after the gruesome incident I grieved over the parent’s deaths and wondered what happened to the kids. Since mom was in her late 20’s when she was killed, I hoped one of her siblings or mom were raising them. But it has been a long time since I thought about either one of them.
Until a few days ago when I noticed a beautiful teenager’s obituary in the paper. She was 14 and a stunning blonde (just like her parents) and her first name was Trinity, leaving a surviving brother named Tristian. I have no knowledge of the cause of her death. It doesn’t matter. I’m just filled with sadness about a young family where tragedy has struck for the third time…
Here’s the story I wrote in 2018.
Most of them have been on the fringe. My fringe. Almost out of my peripheral vision, but still there. Definitely, still there. People I know, but not real well, or haven’t been very close to. Sometimes, barely an acquaintance, friend or family member of a friend. Now someone from my outer edge-not often thought about-fringe friends just sprang back to the forefront. Which flooded my head with another fringe friend from way back. Here’s the story on 2 of my peripheral vision friends.
I always tended to be skeptical when a young couple joined our church. Terrible to even think like that or admit it, but I did. Often. Our congregation was ancient when we started attending in 2004, and we were considered fairly young members. I was in my early 50’s. But this stunning couple. Wow. Her name was Brittany. She was a beautiful blonde. His name was Brandon. He was tall, shy and fair-haired. They were engaged to be married at Central. Thus the skepticism. I believe if you wanted to get married at Central but were not members, the cost for having your wedding there was astronomical. A mere pittance if you belonged. A few times a year, a young couple would join our church right before they uttered their vows, never to be seen at Central again. My former church, built around 1930 has a breathtaking sanctuary. Young traditional couples sought to start their married life saying their vows at Central. Memorable.
But Brittany and Brandon proved me wrong. I’m surprised I ever crossed paths with them really. My job as Parish Visitor was tending to the needs of the elderly from our congregation. Mostly those who could no longer make it to weekly services. Their hunger for news from the church and conversations (about almost anything) was palpable whenever I knocked on their door, or walked into the care facility where they now lived. And that’s how our paths crossed. Brittany was studying to become an RN, and worked at a local nursing home while going to school. A couple of our congregation members now lived there so I visited every couple weeks. I’d run into Brittany every once in a while. After she and Brandon were married they continued to make Central their house of worship. A while later they had a baby girl followed by a boy (both with unusual names) a couple years later. Brittany got her RN degree and changed jobs.
If you’ve kept up with my blog, this is the approximate time I became disillusioned with organized religion in general and everything surrounding the Methodist Church. It wasn’t pretty. Still working on that little issue. Getting right with God. (Thanks for your patience God). Now, on with the story. It’s safe to say, I have not given Brittany, Brandon or their kids much thought since I retired from Parish Visiting in 2013.
Until recently. We moved 160 miles southeast of Muskegon in 2015. Our local newspaper is part of a conglomerate which allows me to keep tabs on Muskegon’s news, which I do a couple times a week. Scanning the Muskegon Chronicle, I started reading a story about a young couple. Oh, oh, don’t like where this is heading. Brittany had filed for divorce from Brandon earlier this year. She was out with a male hospital coworker on a Friday night when she was confronted by Brandon in a parking lot in downtown Muskegon. Brandon started shooting, killing Brittany instantly, then shooting the guy Brittany was with. Brandon drove off to a secluded spot near where he and Brittney lived and killed himself. A couple days later the other young man, Tommy died. Brittany was 28, Brandon, 34. Leaving 2 kids under 10 without parents. Although I have trouble bringing up many conversations with Brandon, this has not been the issue with Brittany. She has haunted my thoughts for 2 weeks. I feel so bad about her tragic death and for her kids. My hope is because she wasn’t even 30, Brittany’s mom is young enough to raise her kids. And I’m stunned, just stunned that I knew another fringe friend who was killed by another person. Never in my life did I imagine I would know people who were intentionally killed by someone else. Who would think of such a thing? Blows me away.
The other fringe friend happened while I was living in Davenport over 30 years ago. Remember while we lived there, 2 people were brutally murdered (separate and different cases) that I knew. It was my story called, Murder she Wrote. But this peripheral friend was not murdered. I honestly can’t remember her real name, which is beyond pitiful. But everyone called her Beanie.
I was on 3 bowling leagues at the time. Two were morning leagues, more to hone your bowling skills. There was no prize money. We only paid for our bowling, so the cost was minimal. But that third league was a serious group of women bowlers. This bowling alley was fantastic. It had 64 lanes-filled to the brim-every night. Our league started about 6, and there was no dinking around because the place had another 3 or 4 leagues starting around 8:30. I vaguely remember our league had about 12 teams with 5 gals on each team. Man were they competitive. I was a pretty good bowler, though certainly not the top bowler on my team, let alone the whole league. I was probably carrying an average in the low 160’s, but there were SEVERAL gals on our league who would be devastated if they ever bowled a game in that minuscule 160 range.
Beanie was on a team in our league. And to be truthful, I coveted absolutely everything about her. I was in my mid-30’s at the time and I think she was a little younger. Let me just put out there a few things about Beanie that I still think about. She was adorable. Petite with curly medium brown hair, I felt like an Amazon thug (or slug) next to her. I was insanely jealous of her team, which makes no sense. (I loved my team. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Mary Lou, Pat, Mary Ellen, Jeanne and me). But Beanie bowled with her mom. The relationship between my Mom and I was tenuous at best and it was almost painful to watch how easily and happy Beanie and her mom were bowling together every week. I think there might have been another sister on their team too. Geez. Beanie was an extraordinary bowler. That tiny gal could zip that dang 15 pound bowling ball down the lane with such precision. (Why couldn’t I throw a nice hook like that? No, my stinking straight ball looked like I belonged in a junior league). I was totally smitten, yet intimidated by everything-Beanie.
Beanie was married and had 2 kids, one of each, maybe 8 and 5. One spring day I opened the Quad City Times and there’s a picture of Beanie. First picture was when she was little and won the best Easter bonnet in the Easter parade at her elementary school. Twenty some years later, Beanie’s daughter won the same contest at the same school. So cute. Still, kinda envious. I remember being at Beanie’s house once. She had a Tupperware party for me. Her house was cute, kids were adorable, her pumpkin dessert, delicious. There was nothing in which Beanie didn’t excel.
It might have taken me a few Tuesday’s at bowling to realize Beanie was missing from her team. Their team had a sub every week. Soon, her mom wasn’t showing up either. News trickled our way that Beanie was sick. Very sick. I think it was leukemia. Within a matter of months, Beanie was gone. And I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I thought she had EVERYTHING. Where was I during this fog which lasted a few years? Being a normal, HEALTHY wife/mom/bowler/friend. Busy coveting what I thought I didn’t have. No wonder God personally wrote, ‘Denise, thou shalt not covet’ to clue me in. Finally. I had envied everything about Beanie.
For over 30 years, I still reminisce about the five year period when Beanie’s and my life intertwined. Sporadically and mostly from afar. Maybe, “coveted everything about her” might have been a tad over the top. Beanie’s young life, snuffed out just when her light was shining so bright you needed to wear shades in her presence. What is it about some people? That special ‘thing’ they possess? How can some people have such an enormous affect on someone they barely know? Thirty years after the fact. I don’t have a clue. But I’m glad Beanie and Brittany were in my life, at least for a little while. Fringe friends. So close to the edge peripherally, but still there. Hanging on. Forever in my mind. And heart…