Soup is the simple winter meal from days at Papa and Grandma's house. It is the sign of a quiet and thoughtful day. Soup means no racing to the store and back for ingredients. Soup means time at home. Mom's potato soup on Fridays as a child meant it was Dad's night to work late. (Soup can "keep.") Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice means a school musical in the first grade. Stone Soup is later in elementary school and laughing with my friends on the library carpet. Campbell's chicken and stars soup means pneumonia in the fifth grade and blearily seeing Mom hovering over my sick-bed on the couch. Bubbling red/purple cabbage soup is the eighth grade and we are all gagging around the table as we tease Dad about his newest recipe. Mom forced me to eat vegetable soup in the days following my friend Sommer's death my senior year of high school. "You haven't eaten in days, Vally. You need something. At least drink some of the broth." Ramen-style chicken-mushroom soup is the taste of loneliness: It is my freshman year of college and not yet having friends to eat with in the cafeteria. After we begged her to eat something--"anything"--the day Papa died, Grandma requested plain chicken broth with crackers. "I bet you never thought," she dryly murmured to my younger brother as we sat beside her at her lunch table in the rest home that day, "that you would be invited over to Grandma's and not be offered anything to eat." When I restarted grad school in 2002, friends from my program gave me belly laughs and tough love and a recipe for tomato soup made from ketchup packets. Tomato soup today means I'm trying once more to learn to love it. Maybe if I add more basil, maybe if I add mozzarella.... To have a bowl of vegetable soup before me makes me happy. To have a pot of vegetable soup simmering on my stove makes me content. Homemade chicken noodle soup means I am 25 and sitting with my newly-ex-boyfriend in my first apartment, hoping that this bowl of broth and carrots and mushrooms will make him love me as-more-than-just-friends once again. Asian chicken soup with greens means I am in the city working as a cook and had time between orders today to jot down a recipe to try at home. Tortilla soup and egg drop soup mean I am in my 30s and dating Mike now. Lasagna soup was one of the bright spots in 2011. Dill pickle soup is my friend Tom and his goodness and kindness. Seinfeld's "No soup for you!" gets shouted in my home whenever we face a disappointment. Tonight's vegetable soup means that I have today off from work and thus will get to enjoy a simple supper of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with now-husband Mike. It means that life is good. It means that despite all the craziness and coldness out there in the world, there is still and always warmth in my home and love in my heart and everything is okay.