We just returned from Chicago and a wonderful few days of catching up with Dave’s family. We stayed at Brookdale Senior Living Center so that we can hang out with Claire’s Great Grandmother Tilly. Playing a mean game of BINGO with the residents was definitely a highlight for her, especially since she had her own black velvet bag full of quarters! We spent some time shopping, and on Saturday Dave and I took Claire, and our niece and nephew, and Tilly to the Lazzadro Museum of Lapidary Art . After the difficult task of deciding on the which stone to buy at the gift shop, we walked next door to see the beautiful flowers at the Wilder Park Conservatory. Everyone loved a gorgeous humidity-free day outdoors!
Tilly is 100 and a half years old to be exact. Over the past decade that I have had the privilege to know her, and the amazing times we’ve shared whenever she came to Kansas City, and now to Orlando to live with us a few weeks at a time, I am always amused and humbled by her simplicity in how she approaches life and food. Her favorite food is chicken soup, including mine. Even though breakfasts and dinners are provided at the senior living center, Tilly still likes making a few things in the kitchen and enjoys making her own lunch and occasional dinners. To surprise her, I went to the store and bought ingredients to make her my chicken soup. Other than the fact that it took almost 3 times as long to cut all the vegetables due to lack of a cutting board and a sharp knife, I must admit I was beaming with pride and joy as I filled her one bedroom apartment with the aroma of soup flavored with basil and oregano and lots of garlic! I even bought Tupperware so that I could divide the two pots of soup into several containers and placed them neatly in the freezer.
I love Tilly. I would do anything to make her happy. Yet for a frugal and incredibly vital centenarian who never wants anything material, who freezes milk when she travels to visit us, who saves everything so that her children and grandchildren can have more, there are very few great gift ideas that I have come up with over the years. Yet I knew that she would know how much I love her through my chicken soup. Tilly and I may be of entirely different ethnic background and generations, but our love of warm and hearty chicken soup and loving others through cooking are identical.
Friday night we attended Dave’s cousin’s beautiful wedding, enjoying a rare chance to see his maternal aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. Claire loved wearing “dangly” earrings and having her cousin wear the same ones. On Saturday, another gorgeous day spent at my in-laws, another great day spending time with Tilly. There was no doubt that nothing delights her more than being around her family. On the way to my in-law’s house, Tilly asked me to bring a frozen Tupperware of soup for Dave’s father and his wife. I jokingly said, “no way, that’s liquid gold that I made just for you!” I brought my in-laws a container, for I knew that Tilly, just like me, always expressed her love through food. Even now, she wanted to nourish her 72-year old baby boy. Tilly spent years making klotchky, chocolate cake, ground beef stroganoff, just a few favorites for the family. The best times she and I have spent have always been in the kitchen. May we all live simply and love one another through healthy and nourishing food.
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.