Mom was a dairy farmer most of her life.
One of 13, she would rather be in the barn with her Dad, but she still learned how to feed a family.
She would throw the bales, and shovel the meal from the cart, carry the milk buckets, fill the cans.
After the milking, she’d drive the horse and cart and cans to the railroad station leaving it to wait for the northbound train.
The horse knew to come home alone, after a swat from the conductor.
Years later, with her own family, summer brought gardens: beans, strawberries, spinach, peaches and later, Concord grapes.
Corn planted, wheat combined, hay, sweet tea and sweat.
Cows milked, chickens slaughtered, lawns mowed, blackberry picking, long-sleeves, blackberry cobbler, home-made ice cream.
Jams: strawberry, peach, blackberry, blueberry.
Jellies: cherry, Concord grape.
Applesauce, lots of applesauce.
Near the end of her life, when dementia/Alzheimer’s was getting bad,
but before the house fire that yanked away the foundation of their lives,
Mom made some grape jelly.
She proudly handed me a half-pint jar marked Grape 7/22 in her backwards scrawl.
I wondered at the time whether I should trust her abilities but figured after a life-time of rote memory, it was probably ok to come home with me.
Fast forward seven years. I’ve driven my RV across the country, with Grape 7/22 tucked away in my cupboard.
Not finding the right time to open Mom’s last testament until;
there was no jelly for my toast, it was finally time to open the sealed jar, which should still be good.
As I pried off the lid, I found a nick in the glass rim.
Of course, after all that time, the jelly was no good.
Even if I could trust that the glass chip wasn’t in the jelly, time and air had changed the grape juice and sugar into a sticky non-palatable mess.
She’s gone, she never knew the jelly jar was nicked, the arbor was bulldozed away, as was the house.
But thank God, I still have those precious memories and the smell of Concord grapes will always take me to the arbor and home.