The air these days is terribly chilly. The blessedly bright and sunny day we had on Eid gave way to dark clouds and biting wind. Soon, unrelenting cold rains will fall for days on end and winter will be officially here. Our room is now cluttered with voluminous bedding and blankets and the wardrobes are busting at the seams with winterwear we’ve unearthed from the store-room. Things seemed to come to a head yesteday – the gloom and mess left us feeling unsettled and annoyed.

Poor Bear had been coughing badly the past few days. She’d been stuffed with all sorts of warm beverages, home remedies and medication, none of which seemed to be working. Yesterday, she coughed practically every other second and by evening, slumped in her chair and pitifully declared, “I’m SO tired … I’ve been coughing so much.”

Mars, just recovering from her illness, wasn’t doing much better. She was coughing as well, though not as badly as her sister, and was irritable after being cooped up in the house for so long. Without her loyal partner in crime to mess around with, she was a shell of her usual bouncy self.

The Dad Man, already worried about Bear, was upset because he had been forced to consume 7-UP at two homes he visited and was convinced it was what had given him the ‘flu. I was about to tell him that his symptoms may have been psychosomatic, given his aversion to caffeine and soft drinks, but levels of irritation were so high all around that I knew it would escalate into an unnecessary, heated argument.

Tired of the frazzled nerves, we decided that some comfort food was in order. We needed something warm, something hearty, something soul-soothing to bring back the cheer. We needed Lamiya’s Soup.

Now, there are an awful lot of ingredients in this soup – chicken stock, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken, capsicum, carrots, coriander and noodles. The stock needs to ‘brew’ and the vegetables must be cut and diced well, so preparation can be awfully tedious. The girls wanted to help and begged me to let them cook along. I remembered how we chatted and laughed in the kitchen last winter. I also had a less pleasant recollection of tempers fraying as the work progressed – when ingredients weren’t cut delicately enough; when there were spills and peels to clear; when the little kitchen felt too constricting altogether…

I made some ginger tea for the kids while trying to decide if I wanted my rowdy ruffians as my apprentice chefs and they watched. Mars began telling me about her gardening efforts – she has been growing garlic and onions in her room. Bear talked about her cross stitch sampler. I felt the tension dissipate and I knew that I had to let go of my exacting standards. We WILL have bad days, rooms WILL get untidy and moods WILL fluctuate – life isn’t a well-choreographed movie. Nothing is perfect so just roll with it.

I did. We did.

We made du`aa for barakah in our effort and result and plunged right in. Bear put on a face mask (yes, she was coughing THAT much!) and took charge of washing the vegetables and chopping the capsicum. Mars peeled and diced the potatoes. I tackled the chicken broth and other trickier bits. Interestingly enough, the kitchen’s cubicle proportions didn’t bother us for once. We didn’t jostle one another or encroach on each other’s work space. Everything was prepared beautifully and *just so* and the girls amazed themselves with their dexterity.

We got to know each other again that evening. The girls learnt that their mum likes things neat and so they remembered to clean up as they went along. Mars is into method and hurries to see the result of her efforts. Bear enjoys the process – she likes the company and is sorry when the job is done. It made me smile when they both broke up the noodles for the soup. Mars broke them three at a time and when Bear saw this, she cried out, “Don’t! No, do it SLOWLY! I want to TALK TO YOU!”

When we all sat down and ate the soup together for dinner, there was silence at first. We had our first sip and let the goodness run through. There was palpable contentment. Dadi was the first to break the silence and said in a gleeful manner that all one needs in winter are soup and pakoras. :) We all laughed, good humour was restored and conversation was merry.

I know we will have hectic and even trying times ahead, but I shall tell myself each morning: I will be grateful for this day.