In a church parking lot, with a howling wind from Boston’s bitter winter beating against our 1989 Toyota windows, I would have the best meals of my life. I was about eight years old at the time, discovering the world with a sense of curiosity that would rival any other child of the world, waiting for my sister to get out of church school. My mother and I had to wait in our car which had a heater that just could not handle the Bostonian cold. It would roar with a fury of a lion but then putter into a breathless kitten in zero to three seconds flat. I remember my mom dressing me in layers upon layers upon layers of hand me down sweaters and jackets and by the time she mummified me in wool and synthetic fibers, I could barely move but at least I was warm. We were blessed with few riches during that time of my life, but my mother made the most of it. As my sister learned about the Lord, my mother and I were shivering away in our worn down jackets. Our hands were white like the snow that surrounded us and our cheeks blushed with a heavy hue of red. We were in this for the long haul. It sucked.
But amidst this wintry hell which were my regular Sunday evenings, my mother always knew how to warm my heart. In a lunch box that my mom carried was a gift, a treasure, ambrosia that would heal any wound, any numbness. In two layers of aluminum was a homemade chicken pot pie, my salvation in this bitter winter. She would bring it out and hand me one. Warmth would instantly return to my hands as I peeled away the silver layer to reveal a golden fluffy crust. If you were to squeeze the pot pie with the most minimal effort, a golden elixir of peas and carrots would ooze out. Every bite would be a religious experience, so kind of like my sister but with less of the soul draining and more of the fun. You know that shiver you get when you step into a hot jacuzzi or a hot shower after you’ve been in the cold too long? On those Sundays, I would shiver not because of the coldness that surrounded me but because of the warmth that filled my stomach and the love that exuded from my mother. Those winters would stumble the hardest of men, but not my family and I. In those winters, we thrived.