Thursday, September 3, 2015

Preserving the Past

We redid our basement this summer. It started out that we would re-carpet. But, having moved everything out of the basement, we decided to re-paint. And then, looking at everything we moved out, we decided we needed new furniture.

So I was happy recently to begin the long process of putting things back. We are sorting and discarding and re-organizing and de-cluttering as we go. But one particular part of this process gave me pause: re-stocking the home-made preserves in a pantry cupboard.

There were all manner of tasty relishes, sauces, compotes and jams that my wife had put up over past years. Peppers, strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, blueberries and more tempted me as I organized and stacked jars on shelves. They dated as far back as 2006, but stopped abruptly in 2011.

My wife was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2012. The dates on jam jars was another reminder that we live in an era of BC (before cancer) and WC (with cancer). It was hard for her in 2012 and since to pick, process, cook and can fruits given the chemo, surgery, radiation and countless medical appointments since the initial diagnosis even up to today. Hence the abrupt halt in production.

We also have not eaten many of her past batches. In part, we forgot them in the clutter of the basement. But we also have to be careful about how much sugar she takes in. But she did make them low sugar even BC, always being a health conscious person.

So recently, we have indulged in fruits of her past efforts. And I realized we were not just unsealing preserved fruit, but bring out past memories. The smell of blackberry/blueberry/raspberry jam from 2006 made me close my eyes and try to remember what the weather was like that summer. The taste of the pepper relish from 2008 made me consider what we were doing in that year BC, when we had appointment-free time to enjoy a West Michigan summer. The fruit compote from 2011 made me think again of how much our lives changed after that year, our last year BC.

All of this recollection had a sobering effect at first. But it also was healing in effect. We did not just preserve fruit, we preserved the past. It is a pleasing taste and enticing fragrance to enjoy something from an earlier year in the present. We do not bemoan the passing of the past, but we savor it now. It inspires us to consider the possibility of doing more canning next summer, to preserve the present to enjoy again in the future with anticipation and gratitude.


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