She wasn't sure what she was going to do. The men were off at the camps. The children were not allowed outside. There wasn't much to do. She could cry. She should cry, certainly she deserved a good cry. She wasn't going to cry, it wasn't her way. She was going to do.
What to do? The men, by which she meant her husband and oldest son, were at the camps, working and glad to have the work too. She hadn't seen them in months. That was the way of it. The work was hard and travel was not something easy to do in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She was nearly out of money, even if she had been able to get to town through the blowing snow and cold. The men had the horses and wagon. She was nearly out of groceries, and tomorrow was Christmas.
What to do? There were 12 children to feed. She had a sack of potatoes, a basket of carrots, some onions and a slab of salt pork. The water pump was froze. Thankfully the snow was packing around the tar-paper shack. It would help insulate against the cold. Time to do.
Well, there was some floor and yeast. At least she could start some bread. How to feed so many mouths with so little food. She had a meat grinder. By design or accident, I've never been told, but the potatoes and onions, carrots and salt pork made their way into the grinder. Snow was added and the whole kettle went on the wood stove. As the snow melted, more was added until a large kettle of soup came to a slow boil. Bread got baked and little mouths were fed.
That is why on my stove tonight there is a pot of ground up soup. I'm not 100% sure if the woman in the tar-paper shack in Michigan's north woods was my great, great grandmother or my great, great, great grandmother. Either way, over a hundred years ago tonight, a poor women with a lot of hungry little ones took what she had and made soup.
Every Christmas Eve of my life ground up soup was on the menu. As a kid I hated it. I called it gruel. Twice, the first and second Christmases after I got married, I managed to avoid eating it. Then something happened. I discovered that Christmas isn't Christmas without that confounded soup.
This last week I was in a second hand store and saw an old hand crank grinder. This afternoon I ground up the soup old school style. Tomorrow there will be a fancy meal. Tonight, I remember that when sky's are gray and the snow blows cold the important thing is to take what you have, and do.
Merry Christmas my friends!