As I was driving home from work yesterday, I glanced to the right and noticed a small grove of wild plum trees in full, white bloom. Immediately, I was taken back to their sweet fragrance and how the slightest of breeze moved their petals. Many years ago, way northwest of the farm where we lived was a grove of these trees, in the “shinneries” mom would say. “A plum thicket momma called them”. Every summer when they began to ripen, we could be seen traipsing through the fields. Each kid had a pot, pan or some sort of bag. We were most assuredly barefoot, hillbilly acting children usually are. I can still feel the heat of the dirt and sometimes the grass burrs that stuck a little too deep to be rubbed off the bottom of the foot. They weren’t nearly as bad as pulling out a goat head though. Between mom and dad telling us to watch for snakes all the time, it’s no wonder my grand aversion to them. After we had made our trek to the grove of plums, mom would always say “Now watch out for snakes, they like it under these groves”. The thickets were thick, and thorns were everywhere. Mom with her long-sleeved shirt on could reach the higher ones, but the thorns still would go through the shirt. That’s a lot of love when someone gets scratched up like that to give it to someone else. It is a wonderful scenery in my mind right now. Nearly everyone I ever knew is still alive, mom is young, the plums are sweet and as we pick our pots full, our stomachs are as well. “You kids are going to be sick, stop eating all those plums”. Those words fell on deaf ears, but she was nearly always right. When we had eaten our fill and had picked enough plums, we would all follow mom back home, usually three or four little ones and the twins, because the older boys were usually in town doing something for dad. We would get home and mom would dump all the plums in our pots, pans and bags into a wash tub, fill it with water and wash and rinse the plums. After that, she would bring them inside. If not late into the evening, by next morning early, mom was already up boiling those plums. Here we go with another of mothers “receipts”, although I have no clue. (This would be a good place for a bit of trivia. If any of you ever saw Downton Abbey, the kitchen help called recipes “reciepts”. I find it interesting that several of the words and things my mother did definitely came from the old country). I just remember mom lifting the heavy pots, and boiling the plums and the bursting of ruby colored bubbles. She would strain the plums, leaving behind dark red water. That must be what wine looked like I thought. Back on the stove it would go in a big pot to boil some more, with sugar added. She always used something named Sure Gel. All I remember is it helped thicken up the jelly. The girls were up after a little while, all the beds were made, the house was straightened before helping mom. They would put lids on the jars, place them in hot water in a pressure cooker. Somewhere in there I remember some wax being used. Maybe that was my grandmother, hmmm, I’m not so good at “putting up garden goods in a jar”. After X number of jars were in the cooker I remember the lid being twisted on the pressure cooker and a heavy gauge that would whistle was put on top. Steam would come out of the top of it like a steam engine. Oh, the simplicity of life to remember such things that were the delicacy of my life. These may seem menial and even trivial to some, but these memories I see with my eyes closed can’t all make it down on paper. Fleeting memories of smiles, laughs and obedience training to get out of not only the kitchen, but the house in general. Momma taking the jars of jelly to the cellar for later use. The old framed in screen comes into view with that little hooked latch. I remember pulling on the screen. It made a slight slamming noise and here would come one of the twins with a “fly swat” as momma called it to run us off. With all that said, it is these stepping stones of memories that make us who we are, that help us live up to our own expectations and reward others with the joy of potential. If I wanted to be really graphic, mother has sweat on her upper lip and the sides of her hair. Her hands are busy as her mind must be as well. Often mother was busy to keep her mind from thinking too much, for idle hands were the devils workshop you know. All of this just goes to show that children as we were; hear, see and remember more than we realize as adults. One must travel back in time in order not to forget what the future will become.
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