Mother celebrated her 79th birthday over the 4th of July weekend. Surrounded by her life-long friend and beloved family decorated in the trimmings of the holiday, we honored the beginning of another year with our mother.
When you get to be 79 years of age and have blown out a few more candles than you dare to count and try to recollect if all your wishes have come true, at the end of the day you are just so thankful to God for life and its abundance.
With mother seated in front of her homemade birthday cake, I remember all the years as a child I sat before the cake mother made for me.
As those gathered around mother began to sing in unison the chorus of Happy Birthday, mother’s eyes went “to and fro” looking into those faces that sang to her. For a brief few seconds, mother’s countenance seemed to fade into the moment and I wondered where she went in her thoughts, I wondered what was she thinking?
Was she remembering birthdays past where life was different for her, where she could still walk unassisted, leave the house and drive, make her own decisions, frequent her favorite restaurant for a cup of coffee, sleep under the covers of her own bed or enjoy her life outside the four walls of the nursing home?
Watching mother during her birthday song, it’s hard not to want her birthday wish to be free from her wheel chair and oxygen. While always believing for miracles and change, the desire of God for all of us is to be thankful and content in the current chair we sit in.
Every year celebrating another birthday with mother, I always stop and give thanks for that treasure trove of remembrances I’ve shared with her, especially our summer ones that still remain packed in the picnic basket of my memory.
Fourteen years ago I wrote about one of those summer memories with mom. Every now and then it’s refreshing to dig out the old picture albums and recall those life moments you remembered, though not in its detail.
Like the stories my mamaw and papaw used to repeat to me over and over yet I joyfully listened as if for the first time, this might be the same for you as some of my favorite “stories” probably have been repeated a few times over, at least in its essence.
In honor of the woman that gave me life, I dust off an old album from my summer past with mother and read in detail and childhood delight, hoping it sparks a childhood memory of your own.
SUMMER IN A JAR
By Lori A. Alicea
With family vacations, summer sports and fairs coming to town, you might not have noticed that Christmas has snuck in the back door of some stores, sounding the alarm that winter is around the corner. By the time most of us are snuggling up in that first fall sweater, we might be asking ourselves, “Where did the summer go?” For those who’d like to hold onto summer a little longer, did you know it’s possible to capture the essence of this season in a bottle, labeling it “summer in a jar?”
Growing up, backyard gardens, cornfields and fruit markets were common neighborhood sights.
With breezes carrying them in, the smells of summer welcomed itself through open windows, evident in the slight waves of the curtains.
Strawberries, peaches, apples and grapes, all waiting for someone to take them home from the fruit market down the street. As a little girl the aroma of this seasonal shop was so delicious, fruit juices could be tasted just by breathing.
Mother would buy these farmer spoils by the flat, bushel and bucket, bringing them home to create jams, jellies and frozen fruit for future homemade pies.
The pantry off from the kitchen displayed my mother’s mid-year labors, as I fantasized over them in the winter pretending they were “summer in a jar”.
From June through August, we five sisters helped mother prepare fruit for her signature jams, giving into temptation to eat more fruit than we prepared. Though our mouths revealed the sticky evidence of our crime, mother didn’t scold us, rather kept focused as she boiled fruit on her Magic Chef stove. Still boiling hot, blue Mason jars were filled then sealed with melted paraffin wax. Mother’s creations eventually lined the pantry shelves when they cooled, waiting for winter to come.
It’s hard to appreciate kitchen art when the thermostat reads above 90 degrees. But light the fireplace one frosty December morning, and top a fresh baked biscuit smothered in butter with homemade jam, those early hours might usher in a smell of summer with fruit so fresh you’d think they were recently picked.
As an adult, I am saddened that subdivisions have taken over the neighborhood, leaving farmer fields a figment of my imagination. Kitchen curtains don’t fly in the wind of open windows as air conditioners keep them closed. Fruit markets are a novelty now, canning isn’t a way of life, and out of five sisters, I’m the only one that cans, bakes bread and finds pleasure in homemade anything.
But for me, my homemade effort’s brings back time with mom and memories of yesterday, when I go the extra mile to see my shelves full of “summer in a jar”.