Monday, July 5, 2021

From Strawberries to Jam


This kid's Happy Place is a berry patch, any berry patch:

For a kid like that, then, summer is a glorious time to be alive and in a u-pick strawberry patch. It's an all-you-can-eat strawberry buffet, with take-home containers handily provided for you!

For some reason, I didn't pick up enough cardboard trays for us each to have our own (???), and so here I am, staining my T-shirt like a boss:

It was really gorgeous weather on this day. Just a few weeks later would find me at the u-pick blueberry patch at the exact same time of day, about to pass out from the heat, but on this morning the overcast skies and the rain that would start to fall just a few hours later (and not let up for days) kept the temperature just about perfect.

The fact that this was one of our first field trips of summer vacation made it even more precious. Spending time with both my kids at the same time, on a weekday morning of all things, is something that I very much missed during the school year.

And now that they're older, I can sit on my butt in the middle of a strawberry patch taking cute pictures on my phone... and strawberries still get picked!!!

We left for home with over eight pounds of picked-by-us strawberries (and some pepper, tomato, and chard plants... oh, and some flowers!), and to be honest, we probably could have eaten all eight pounds fresh--I mean, we also came home from the blueberry patch with over eight pounds of picked-by-us blueberries, and all that's left of those after a week are a half-gallon of frozen berries waiting to be made into muffins--but Will is working on a homesteading project, and so I wanted to teach both kids how to make jam.

And a mess. Because we mostly made a mess:

I taught the kids how to make both freezer jam and cooked, canned jam. I'd never actually made freezer jam before, and so when we did, and I tasted our finished jam, I accidentally unlocked a core memory: Mama made freezer jam every year, and froze huge batches of it in little plastic butter tubs. I liked toasted Wonder bread with lots of butter and strawberry jam on it the best, but I also liked to eat it with Papa's buttermilk biscuits. I never helped make it, or was even in the kitchen, really, when it was being made, and I couldn't have told you that it was even specifically freezer jam that I was eating all those years ago, but one spoonful of this homemade strawberry freezer jam that I made with my kids and I was back in my childhood kitchen, sitting in the breakfast nook and eating toast and jam for breakfast.

I wonder what sensory cues my kids will one day experience that will take them right back to their childhood homes... and to me? Not gonna lie, it's probably going to be something like the scent of Pizza Rolls in a half-broke oven, or chicken strips in the air fryer. Vinegar and tea tree oil in a spray bottle, maybe. An Arctic Monkeys song on the radio. Overhearing a stranger say "Bless their heart" right before proceeding to talk trash about someone. Walking into the house of a new friend and seeing that they've got too many books on their bookshelves. 

Whatever brings them back for that second, to this childhood home and to me, I hope it feels precious to them, too. I hope it's as sweet as the taste of strawberry freezer jam eaten in my kitchen with my daughters, and my kitchen with Mama and Papa, both all at once and 40 years apart.

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