Art, Children, Friends

Love before Love

Valentine's Soup

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.

– Elie Wiesel

Bug creeps out of his bed and tiptoes into my room. “Mommy, I made twenty-eight bowls!” His eyes are far too bright for this ungodly hour. For the third time, I walk him back to his room and perch next to him on the bed. He has been drawing a Valentine’s Day picture. The pink and red markers are running to chalky streaks.

“You know it’s well past time for sleep, buddy.”

“I know, but see?” He starts to color in the legs of the lone person on the page, already forgetting why he called me in.

“What’s that?” I point to the angled, big-smiling figure with a giant cup teetering on its head.

“The cook,” he tells me. “He’s making soup.”

Hearts embellish every object. Even the pots are not spared. Red-and-yellow dots of loving soup-ness swim at the top of the concoction. Crenulated ribbons of steam dance skyward. “It’s Valentine’s soup,” He tells me. “For the party.”

Down below, he draws a long grayish centipede-ish something with far too many legs. “What about that?” I ask.

“That’s the table,” he says. In the bottom corner of the page, bowls are stacked in rows.

“How many?”

“One for everyone in my class. That’s twenty-six, and two more for the teachers. Twenty-eight” He draws more wiggles of happy heat. “This is another kind of soup. In case someone wants a different one.”

In the top corner of the page, a collection of stick-seats jostle for space. “Did you make twenty-eight chairs?” I ask.

“Twenty-nine, actually,” he says.

“Why the extra?”

He shrugs. The cook grins. The pot steams. “In case someone else shows up.” He pauses then draws a twenty-ninth bowl.

Valentine’s Soup. Room at the table and plenty to go around. Everyone is invited, even the one who isn’t.

That’s what I call Love.

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