(Photo by: Jim Fisher)
A Short Story by Tracy Fredrychowski
It was before dawn as Anna May hurried out of bed to get the coffee going before her son Martin came knocking at her door. It was the first day of hunting season, and she wanted to make sure he had a good breakfast before he went to the woods.
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and all the men in her Amish Community had been planning this day for weeks. As she filled the coffee pot, she looked out the kitchen window to see the moon reflecting off a fresh layer of early snow. A deep sadness overtook her as she remembered how Walter loved the first snow. It was all she could do to keep her emotions inside.
She set the coffee pot on the stove, added a few pieces of kindling wood to the firebox and busied herself rinsing the beans that had been soaking overnight. As she set the pot of beans back on the stove, she was reminded of the day the stove was delivered.
She stood at the sink washing the breakfast dishes when she heard a truck pull up to the house.
“For heaven’s sake, who could that be so early?“ She asked as she turned to look at Walter who was finishing his coffee.
Walter stood and walked over to the window as he placed his cup in the sink.
“Looks like a delivery truck,” he said as he smiled and grabbed his hat off peg by the side door.
Figuring the truck was delivering something he had ordered for the greenhouse she went back to her dishes and tidying up the kitchen. From the front porch, she heard Walter call her name.
“Anna May, are you going to open the door or what?”
When she opened the door, she saw sitting on the front porch a new stove. They had just talked about replacing the old one last week and had not even considered that he would go ahead and surprise her with such a blessing.
“If you plan on making that bean soup you had better get those chairs out of the way so we can get your new stove set up,” he said as he moved past her and moved the kitchen table out of the way.
After the delivery men had left and Walter finished setting up the new stove, he handed her a note and turned and walked out the door.
That was forty years ago, and she still remembered the smile he had on his face when he surprised her with the new stove. While she waited for the coffee to finish, she pulled her rocking chair closer to the heat to ward off an early morning chill when out of nowhere she remembered the note.
She walked across the room to the cupboard where she kept her recipe box. Folded up, underneath her favorite recipe cards was a stained and tattered piece of paper. Once she held it in her fingers, a flood of memories released the tears that she had been holding back all morning. Carefully opening the note, she sat back in her chair and read the word Walter had written all those years ago.
My Dearest Anna May,
My prayer for this day is that we spend the rest of our lives warming our souls, feeding our children and lifting each other up around this stove. The Lord has blessed me with a beautiful wife to share this life, and this is just a small token of my love for you.
Blessings and love, your husband,
P.S. The years have been kind to us. You have blessed me with seven children and a life full of the Lord, laughter, love, and plenty of bean soup. Lord willing my time is almost up here on earth, and I wanted to tell you one last time how much I have treasured our life together. After all these years I wanted to let you in on a little secret. Martin thinks I loved the first day of hunting more than anything, but it wasn’t hunting I liked as much as coming home to you and the smell of homemade bread and bean soup simmering on the stove. Please promise me you will always make Martin bean soup on this day and remember it was the warmth of your love that kept the fire burning in my heart all of these years.
Until we meet again, your loving and faithful husband,
With shaking hands, she folded the note and placed it in her apron pocket just as Martin walked in the back door. She realized Walter must have added to the note just a few days before he passed away.
“It’s not going to be the same with Dat not here,” Martin said as he reached for a cup to pour himself a cup of coffee. “He loved the first day of deer season.”
“I forgot my orange hunting vest, do you mind if I wear Dat’s?” He asked as he headed for the mudroom to look for the vest.
Anna May just smiled and nodded her head. She could tell he was missing Walter as much as she was and figured he had probably forgotten his vest on purpose so that he could wear his Dat’s’, just like he did every year.
As Martin walked back in the kitchen, he had a smile on his face at finding the orange vest and asked if she was making bean soup for lunch.
With a smile on her face and a warm heart she stood up and said. “For as long as I live you will always have Bean and Ham Soup for lunch on this day.
Homestyle 16 Bean and Ham Soup
2 cups dried beans – 16 Mixed Bean Mix, Great Northern or Navy Beans
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 ham hock or ham bone
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2 packets of Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 bay leaves
Rinse and remove any discolored beans in cold water.
In a large stock pot soak 2 cups of dried beans in 6 cups of cold water for 12 hours.
After the 12 hours rinse the beans and add 6 cups of fresh cold water.
Heat to boiling and then shut the heat off and let sit covered for 2 hours.
After the two hours, rinse the beans again and set aside.
Chop 2 cups of carrots, 1 cup of celery, 1 cup of onions, and 3 garlic cloves.
In the stock pot add 2 tablespoons of oil, two tablespoons of butter and chopped vegetables. Saute for 15 minutes.
Add beans, ham hock, 4 cups of water, 4 cups of chicken stock, and seasonings to the stock pot.
Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender.
Before serving cut ham off the bone and discard the bone, remove the bay leaves.
Enjoy with a slice of fresh homemade bread.
Tracy Fredrychowski is a country girl, author, homesteader and everything simple living. She has a passion for writing about the simpler side of life, much like the life she lived growing up in rural Pennsylvania.
Her life has always been intertwined with the Amish, and it’s only fitting that she has a genuine passion for their simplicity, sense of community and God-centered lives.
Growing up in Northwest Pennsylvania she spent her childhood immersed deep in Amish Country. The clip-clop of horse and buggy woke her each morning as Amish men drove past her childhood home on their way to work. As a young woman, she was traumatized by an Amish murder that involved a family member and changed her life forever.
Even though she currently lives in South Carolina her travels take her through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin’s Amish Country every year. During those stops, she researches the communities she visits and prides herself on writing Amish fiction that truly represents the Amish culture. She considers herself very fortunate to have made friends in those communities and values the information they share and wants nothing more than to represent their lifestyle as accurately as possible.