We were so excited to see the movie Unbroken several years back. It is the true story of Louis Zamperini. Louis was the Olympic runner who found himself as a prisoner of war after his B-24 bomber crashed into the Pacific. He and two other men survived the crash and were stranded for 47 days on a raft floating in the Pacific. They endured sufferings that only the strongest of minds could withstand. Constant shark attacks, little to no food and water, torrential storms, and fending off several attacks by Japanese bombers while trying to stay alive, tested these courageous men daily and once rescued found themselves again in worse captivity as POWs.
Louis was a very difficult child for his Italian immigrant parents. He was constantly in trouble with the law and at school. One scene in the movie, Louis is sitting on the dark steps watching his mother make Gnocchi. Gnocchi is a traditional Italian dish. It is a dumpling made with flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, and cornmeal. Each egg was cracked and kneaded into the flour with care. He watched each egg be cracked while methodically counting in his head the number of eggs in the recipe. Louis had a particularly rough day as he had been found drinking and was beaten by his father that night.
His mother didn't know Louis was observing. She was just preparing food late that evening. She didn't know she was imprinting on his mind and heart memories of home that would give him the will to live in a few short years. She wasn't purposefully teaching any lesson or trying to show Louis anything. She just was. She was just preparing dinner.
Fast forward many years later, Louis is floating in the middle of the Pacific for a month now and it was well-known that the mind went before the body in such desperate situations. Louis knew that and encouraged the other two men to keep talking. He said over and over that they had to keep talking. There were two topics that the men talked over and over about. Food and baseball. Mainly food. Louis would recall the scene of his mother making Gnocchi. He would tell the men how she cracked each egg into the flour. He took Mac's hand and pretended to knead the dough. It kept them going and gave them hope. That simple memory was enough to keep him alive and motivated to get home. His mother's Gnocchi.
Several scenes later into the movie and after having been a POW for over two year now, Louis is forced to go on the Japanese radio and lie that everything is okay and all the prisoners are being treated well. This is quite contrary to what is actually happening in the camp especially to Louis who was beaten everyday by the Japanese. He was beaten so close to death numerous times. He was addressing his family members individually and reminded his father to get some good rabbits for mom's Gnocchi sauce.
I think of this specific simple theme a lot in my motherhood. Louis's memory of his mother making Gnocchi kept him going. What would keep my children going if in a similar situation? What will be their "Gnocchi" memory in our home. For me, it is my mother making bread. My mother made bread every Monday. We consumed hundreds of loaves and rolls. Bread still pulls us home. My brother and his family walk over every Saturday morning for homemade toast. Bread is what my kids look forward to when going home to visit my mom.
Meal preparation can often seem to be a chore. With the lens of providing them memories of the actual making and preparing food and our presence in the kitchen moving about, cracking eggs, measuring flour, boiling water, mixing, baking, and all that food prep entails is actually plowing into their memories feelings of home, comfort, joy, excitement, routine, and availability. To me, it is not a mundane task to cross of my list. I recall often Louis and his memory of his mother and collect myself to give my children that same image. I know in the years to come and life's trials begin to confront our children on an adult level, memories of home and kitchen will give them comfort and a sense of belonging.