Growing up, one of the most bittersweet things to happen to you was getting sick enough to miss school. It was great because you got to sleep in, stay in bed and watch TV or read books. The bad part was...well being sick. 

But because I had a nurse for a mom, this was an especially rare occasion. Head and stomach aches were little roadblocks to overcome in the name of education. Sniffles and coughs were a reminder that I need to wash my hands better and get more sleep. All were character-building obstacles that could be fixed with a couple ibuprofen, a solid meal and a “you’ll feel better once you get your day started”.

But on the mornings when I’m hunched over the toilet losing that same solid meal, there was no going back. I would wish my scowling brothers a good day at school, then slowly (but gleefully) make a couch-bed and lie on it as still as I could to keep the room from spinning. On those days, my amazing mom would pull out all the stops to make sure I was happy and well fed, as moms tend to. Several meals that were used to tide me over till I pass through my head, but none could hold a candle to my mom's tomato cream and basil soup.

This soup was special for two reasons.

First, she rarely did. It’s not that anyone besides me liked it per se, it’s just that mood never struck very often. My mom made this whenever I was too sick for school. But since I wasn’t sick often, I didn’t eat it often. Also, compared to the other soups and broths my mom made, there was a lot of ingredients that went into it if made right. To have all that and double it to feed six hungry mouths for maybe a meal or two, just wasn’t worth the time and effort. Plus, considering the sugar that goes into it, it wasn’t the most healthy either. The other reason was the ingredients itself. My mom is a firm believer in growing and making food from scratch. She worked hard to make sure almost everything on the table was either grown in her own garden or came from the various farm animals we had. If there were tomatoes, onions and basil in the soup, then it came from the garden, or from a jar she canned herself. If there was cream, then it came from our own cow’s leftover milk. A soup like this was for special occasions. Unfortunately, one of those occasions was me huddled on my couch watching Law and Order: SVU reruns.

There wasn’t anything particular about it that made me feel better (except for the occasional dash of hot sauce to keep it interesting).

No special ingredient. The sweet and savory flavor was always enough to put a smile on my face. It was the thought of my mom willing to make this for me. Sitting down with me and risking her life for God-knows whatever bug I had to eat what was left over from the pot and watch shows with me. Those moments I spent with her amidst our busy lives was wonderful and precious and it’s something I still carry with me years later.

Now that I’m in college, I don’t need to pass a list of requirements to officially miss school. I don’t even need to feel sick to do it. But on days when I feel particularly gross (or maybe just homesick) I fire up the microwave and warm up some ready-made tomato cream and basil soup from the store.