Mama stood plump and round in her cotton housedress and flowered apron and stirred the large blue enamel pot of peach jam with a sturdy wooden spoon. Her brow, beaded with sweat, frowned in concentration. Chunks of peach floated in the thick rust-colored mixture that was almost ready to pour into the sterilized jars. The delicious aroma filled the house.
. I disliked the feel of the peach fuzz so peeling and slicing was not my moment. But I was eager to help ladle the hot jam into jars that I had carefully washed and rinsed. We covered the jars with melted paraffin and screwed on the lids. They shone like jewels on the basement shelves. Mama would smile and say, “don’t that look good?”
To this day, the aroma of peach jam transports me instantly to the tiny kitchen of my childhood home in Detroit. The peaches came from one small tree in our backyard and bore generous crops for years. The tree and a small garden produced an abundance of food. Mama had a green thumb, no doubt about that and she learned about “making do with little” in her parent’s home in a small village in Germany. Growing vegetables and putting up produce helped feed our growing family during the great depression and later the war years.
Mama’s goal in life was to create a loving home for her family and nourishing, hearty meals were the mainstay of that self-imposed duty.
She had traditional values that I was disdainful of as a teenager. Her heavy German accent set me apart as did the handmade clothes she lovingly sewed. I wanted to hear the popular music of the day, not her beloved Strauss waltzes.
I couldn’t know during those times in our kitchen that cancer would end her life abruptly within a few short years. There would be no more peach jam or garden or wonderful meals unless I prepared them. Now, more than half a century later, I celebrate her life with my own home made peach jam and deeply cherish her values and the memories of her loving ways.
. I believe in the importance of preserving and cherishing memories of loved ones.
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