The Noodles of Human Kindness

Buggies at Jacob'sAs you may know if you’ve seen my previous two blog entries, it’s been a rough week; on Monday, I had to have my dog Peri euthanized. In the great realm of human tragedy, this is a mere nothing, but I’ve spent the week feeling shredded and raw even so. And yet there’s comfort in even the greatest pain. In my case, comfort came in the form of kind words and dry noodles.

Tuesday was sunny and relatively warm. (The recent cold snap has defined “warm” as “any temperature above zero that involves two digits.”) I decided it was a sign that I should tamp down my sorrow and go for my first dogless walk in over thirteen years. But to ease myself into the experience, I concluded I should stop first at my Amish neighbors’ house and return the book that Jonas had so randomly and kindly lent me. (He’d flagged me down as I walked by on a bitterly cold day a few weeks ago and handed me a musty red book, saying he thought I would enjoy it. One would think that coming from an elderly Amish man, it would be some kind of religious tract, but both this one and the one he’d lent me a few days previously were more adventure stories with surprisingly feisty heroines. I’m hoping to write more about my Amish book club in a separate entry.)

Anyway, I’d been done with the book for several days and had meant to return it, but Peri’s sudden illness and death had derailed that plan. It was time to re-rail it, though. I thought having a pit stop and a chat with my kindly neighbors would ease the sting of Peri’s absence. And so it proved.

I heard Emma, Jonas’s wife, cheerfully bidding me to come in when I knocked on the door. I entered and was faced with a row of white covered tables, noodles already drying on the end one, and Emma busily kneading dough for the next batch. Despite the lack of central heating and electricity, the room radiated warmth—and so did Emma. She listened sympathetically to the story of Peri’s death. I would have thought that Amish people would be no-nonsense and unsentimental about animals given their austere lifestyle. Not so.

After expressing her condolences, Emma told me about a dog named Skipper that she and her family had loved as intensely as I had loved Peri. He’d gotten old and passed on long before, but there was still a distant look of regret in Emma’s eyes as she told me about him. “Of course,” she added, looking at the family’s current pet Chihuahua, “We like Trixie too. But she is what she is, and no dog will ever be like Skipper.”

Once our bond of commiseration had been established, Emma went on to give me a lesson in noodle making; she was especially profuse in her praises of the Noodle Chef that she’d obtained fairly recently and was using to roll out the dough. I told her how I’d heard that store-bought noodles can never compare to homemade ones, and Emma agreed. Her wheelchair-bound sister Laura rolled over to listen to us, and before I knew it, an hour had passed. I told Emma that I’d best be going since I had to work at the library soon, and I thanked her for her time and teaching. “I tried to make noodles a few years ago, and it was a complete flop,” I told her. “But now you’ve inspired me to try again.”

Emma disappeared into the pantry and re-emerged with a plastic bag of noodles. “These are from before,” she explained, “But they’ll still taste good, and now you’ll know what homemade noodles taste like.”

I walked down the road, blinking in the sun and clutching the Noodles of Human Kindness, feeling like maybe my heart would heal again after all.

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5 comments

  1. Always remember that your “evil” stepmother loves you very dearly and deeply:)

  2. It’s amazing the comfort that comes from people who take the time to listen and to understand. So sorry about Peri.

    1. I agree with your assessment of the amazingness factor; the difference in my emotions before and after entering Emma’s house was incredible. Thanks for your sympathy about Peri. I’m pleased to report that my emotional equilibrium has pretty much returned. Reading your posts has helped a lot–I really enjoy them. Are you still teaching A.P. English? I admire your writing as it is, but if you’re producing it on top of planning lessons and grading papers and doing the million other soul-sucking things that were NOT in the job description…then you are truly a goddess. Thanks for both the sympathy and the humor! > Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 21:55:37 +0000 > To: reharris68@hotmail.com >

      1. I do teach AP English and then try to grind out a couple of posts each week, which can be a bit like trying to get a good cup of coffee from the dregs. Thankfully, the kids often offer me fodder for stories. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement!

      2. Aha! You do indeed merit Goddess Status, what with the whole teacher/writer combination and all… I’m glad you’re such an effective alchemist (alcoffeeist?) when it comes to creating humor from dregs. I hope your Fodder Producers reward your efforts by all getting 5’s on their A.P. exams! > Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:43:59 +0000 > To: reharris68@hotmail.com >

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