On my Dad and MomPat’s farm, there’s a house. We call it “the little house”, it’s not super little really, but it’s the house we had the privilege of growing up in. Set smack on the corner of a gravel road and a black-top state road. It’s a busy corner for our country community. Two of my brothers and I made countless trips from the little house to swim in the lake and back again, and then to the hog barn to do chores. It’s the little house my husband and I had our first really big fight, and where we spent the first two years and 361 days of marriage. It’s where we conceived and lost our first baby. That house has a host of memories for each of my family members.
Amongst all the memories within the house, there is a treasure in the back yard. To any other person, it’s just an apple tree. But to those of us who know, it’s “the applesauce tree”. Every fall, my MomPat would make applesauce and store it in the freezer for the year. It was a sweet addition to home cooked meals, dessert almost. We all loved to see the frozen pink cubes come upstairs, out of the deep freeze; the bowl licked clean when it was all said and done. The apples from this special tree, variety unknown, even to two horticulturalists, make the perfect applesauce. It’s sweet and tart, with a pretty pink blush. Once married, I made applesauce in the fall for our larder.
However, 2012 was the last time I made applesauce. It’s taken me three years to get to this point of outwardly admitting what I knew deep inside. All three of my grandmothers past away the summer of 2013 in a space of five weeks, and since that point I have barely canned or processed much of anything. I’m not exactly sure why, other than I guess it’s part of my grieving process. You see, canning and processing food is something I picked up ultimately from them. My Great-Grandmother John taught my Grandmother Irene, who taught my MomPat, who taught me. And as I began to do so on my own, I would talk with and share stories with my Grandma Wanda. She would reminisce with me about days when she and her family would process and cook wild game and goodies from their garden. It was a necessity for each of those precious and hard-working ladies, but also a joy to provide such wonderful love-filled meals for their family.
About a year and a half after loosing my grandmothers, I was in a rush one night to get supper on the table for a couple of hungry little people. I ran down to the basement and grabbed the last jar of applesauce on the shelf. It was the last one. It was from the batch of Lodi apples me, MomPat and Grandmother Irene gathered early one summer. As I opened the jar, a flood of memories came back. Tears began to flow for Grandmother Irene. I had been mourning my Grandma Wanda, but emotionally hadn’t really touched Grandmother Irene yet. What a gift in simply opening a jar of applesauce.
A month ago while digging in my deep-freeze, I came across a pink, frozen cube. Ages old and freezer burned, I sadly had to dispose of the applesauce. But I think it helped to awaken something inside that had been at slumber for these past three years.
One day last week, I had planned to work outside. However, when I woke up the sun was hidden behind a cloudy and cool fall day. After dropping the kids off at school I decided to re-route my day, and spent much of it making applesauce. After dropping the kids off at school, I drove to the little house and gathered a tub full of apples. It happened so naturally and spontaneously.
As I stood at the kitchen sink washing and cutting the sweet and tart apples, I can’t explain the feelings that washed over me. It was a sweet release, peaceful and happy. It finally felt easy and enjoyable. It didn’t feel like an obligation, like another time I had tried to process food for our stores over the past three years. As the apples cooked on the stove, filling the house with an old familiar smell, I enjoyed the warmth and looked out into the cloudy fall sky. I think my heart healed a little bit with each jar, and smile, that went into the canner. I still miss them terribly at times, but I’m grateful and hopeful that their energy (to do this thing in particular) has returned to me.
The pint jars still cover my kitchen counter, they haven’t been put away just yet. I’ve been enjoying the view. Tonight I’ll put them downstairs, on a shelf, ready to be pulled out on a cold winter day. A lot less sugar than we used to use but pink, delicious, comfort food none the less. The frustration with my inability to process food for the past three years has subsided, it must be just part of my healing process. However strange that may seem. It may never be the same, and it may be one jar at a time, but I’m going to be grateful for each one.