Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Chokecherry Jam

Yesterday was my Mother’s birthday, though she didn’t know it and I think maybe I was the only one who remembered and thought about it all day long.

We used the day to move her to the last bed she will likely ever sleep in. I say we, though, in truth, I had very little to do with it. The nurses speak to her as if she were a child. I liken it to the way I reassure my cat, Buddy, when we visit the dreaded vet. I keep repeating it’s okay, which makes him behave. Though he doesn’t believe it, and neither does she.

And, so… while this is for the best, it leaves daughters, like me, feeling helpless and hopeless, realizing far too late that I should have talked to her, when I could, about the little things.

Like her recipe for chokecherry jam.

My Mother created the ‘girl getaway,’ long before that was fashionable. She’d pack me in the car and drive north to her sister, Ollie’s farm. Windows down, hair blowing in the breeze, Mom would talk loudly over the noise, reminiscing about that farm, where she grew up. About her horse, Old Slim Jim, who was neither old, nor slim – or, for that matter, a boy. He served as reliable transportation when she was too young to drive.

Once at the farm, we’d head straight to the fields and spend the day picking chokecherries. Mom had more sisters than you could ever imagine and 5 or 6 of them would show up for this summer ritual.

We’d pick buckets and buckets of sour, little berries. Have a picnic in the shade where I got to eavesdrop on their chatter… about life and love, husbands and homes.

Back at our house, we’d turn those tart berries into small jars of sweet jam. Some entered in the state fair competition. Most given away to familiar faces who dropped by to say hello.

One by one, her sisters are dying, now. And, so is she. And, those days won’t ever come again. Because Mothers in my generation rarely get the opportunity to expose their little girls to such things.

She could have grown chokecherries on her own land and made this easy. She could have left me behind at the sitter. But, this wasn’t about the berries, or the jam. I think maybe it was those days that molded me into a kind and quiet person. One who appreciates simple things. And, the camaraderie of women, and men, for the rich experiences they both have to offer.

Say a prayer for my Mother, today. Perhaps, in her fitful dreams, she will hear it.

13 comments:

compteacher said...

Hi Kit,

What a nice memory of your mom and tribute to her. I'm sure she's proud of your writing. And feel free to stop over anytime to pick chokecherries off our bushes, maybe even take a tree for yourself, Steve would love to get rid of some.

See ya soon,
Sandy

lisab said...

hi kit had no idea what a wonderful thing to write you made me smile

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I stumbled across what we dearly hoped was a chokecherry tree yesterday (never having seen one). While trying to find out what a chokecherry tree looks like, I ran across your lovely story. And we are in luck -it is a wonderfully loaded chokecherry tree and we will be back to harvest and process it in a few days. Can you tell me - does one pick cherry by cherry or remove the entire "string" that they are on? My inclination is to pick berry by berry but I'm not sure. We sure don't want to damage the tree!

Kate said...

Hi,

Thanks. That's very sweet of you to say. I sometimes think I should delete this blog entry -- it's a little too personal.

Yes, picking by hand is the way to go but you can usually swipe your hand down a cluster of chokecherries and they will all fall into your bucket.

Don't worry about damage. They're tough trees. :)

If you're making jam, here is a link to a Chokecherry Jam Recipe.

Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Your story reminds me of my own mother :-) and Grandmother.
I love chokecherry jam and syrup for pancakes. I would love to pick some chokecherries - I have none here where I live. where are you located? (please) :-)

Kate said...

Well... not sure since you are 'anonymous.' Are you in the USA? Chokecherries bloom pretty much everywhere in the northern half of the US and far up into Canada. Hope that helps.

Happy Gardening,
Kate

morseinslc said...

I grew up in Montana and picked chokecherries each year for mom to make syrup. I live in Salt Lake and would love to find some to pick and make syrup/jelly. Anyone give me some exact locations to find chokecherries here in Utah.

Kate said...

Hi;
We don't seem to get enough moisture for the wild ones to be working picking in UT. Check with the county extension office. They may have some suggestions...

Unknown said...

Where did you go when you were younger to pick chokecherries?
I have the same type of memory going into the mountains of eastern Idaho with my parents to pick chokecherries. They're both gone now but, wow, that chokecherry jelly was the best stuff!!
I spotted some chokecherries in bloom this year along Highway 6 going to Price, but they were too tall to pick from and no fruit matured (too dry??). I'm trying to locate a large, consistent supply. I want to introduce my kids and grandkids to chokecherries.

Unknown said...

Where did you go when you were younger to pick chokecherries?
I have the same type of memory going into the mountains of eastern Idaho with my parents to pick chokecherries. They're both gone now but, wow, that chokecherry jelly was the best stuff!!
I spotted some chokecherries in bloom this year along Highway 6 going to Price, but they were too tall to pick from and no fruit matured (too dry??). I'm trying to locate a large, consistent supply. I want to introduce my kids and grandkids to chokecherries.

Don Johnson said...

My parents picked chokecherrys in the mountains of Montana when I was a kid. My mother made several quarts of syrup every year for pancakes and waffles. I later on learned how to make the syrup myself, and now my Grandchildren can enjoy what I enjoyed so much when I was young. The berry itself is very bitter and consequently needs a lot of sugar.

Linda said...

Your story touched my heart. Thank you for sharing... I have fond memories of picking chokecherries with my grandma back in Colorado. One bittersweet memory was visiting my Grandpa after my Grandma died and he share the last jar of jelly she had put up before she passed. so now that I'm in Utah I hope I can find some...Still searching

EphieV said...

My name Gerald Clark I live in Clearfield Utah. I Planted Chokecherry's in our yard an they have done real well. Grown to large trees with a lute of cherrty's.