I had a perfect afternoon today, where I ended up with six wonderful peach loaves, six burned peach loaves, a sink full of dirty dishes, a washing machine full of wet laundry that I started the cycle on at seven in the morning and forgot to hang out, and not one single thing scratched off my “To Do” list. It is stuck to the front of the fridge where I can’t miss it and it always includes a wide variety of tasks. Clean the eggs— not done! Paint lawn furniture—not done! Check out Air Miles—not done! Pick the Zucchini—not done! Pick tomatoes—not done! Send card to Ron—not done!
The list went on and on for more than half a page and not a single task was crossed off. Neither was there anything crossed off the “Honey Do” list. Rolly’s list isn’t actually any longer than mine; I’m the list maker and I try to be fair about it. His does have a lot more difficult tasks on it though—Replace the toilet at church—Cut down the Ash tree, and the like.
Here in the heartland of Ontario, when we feel a change coming in the early morning air with its cool dampness, no matter how warm the day before was, or how hot the day ahead is predicted to be, we know that our painting days, our harvesting days, our drying laundry outside in a hurry days, will soon be over. The lists always lengthen as the change in seasons approaches too. Outdoor tasks predominate for Rolly, and for me it is closely related to what comes in from out there. Right now we have ever-bearing strawberries, and red raspberries to freeze or make into jam, and a surplus of eggs to bake into goodies for the freezer. Then there is relish, salsa, and chili sauce-making to look forward to. I am serious about “looking forward” to it too. I love all those wonderful smells that fill the kitchen and draw the little black raspberry bugs to the window screens, where they gather like kids at Christmas card window scenes, in frenzied anticipation. Whether they ever get what they are hoping for or not will depend on how good they are ( the kids) and how bad they are (the bugs)! I still remember being at a friend’s house as a kid when her Mom served out for our dessert, glass bowls (fruit nappies they call them here) full to overflowing with raspberry preserves. I thought she had placed each nappy on the centre of a saucer to avoid spilling, until she said. “Just put the bugs on your saucer.” It was the last time I ever ate a raspberry, unless it was fresh picked (preferably by me). I still can’t get past the trauma of seeing all those dead bugs floating around the edges of everyone’s saucers, like miniature army helmets!
It’s time to preserve the best of the blessings that God has given us, while we have such a bounty of them—so many that the excess peaches actually made it into loaf cakes. Some of these were to be popped into the few remaining spaces in the freezer, the rest shared with those around me who don’t have the time or energy to bake.
Yes, it was a day to preserve the best. My mother and my youngest brother stopped by for a visit in the midst of the peach loaf experiment, which I was making with my own revised banana cake recipe. The pureeing, the measuring, the sifting and the mixing continued. The laughter coming from the kitchen was louder than the buzz of the blender, and the love that was shared was sweeter than the honey. The stories of family foibles on vacations in years gone by, and gossip about foibles of siblings on vacation right now, intermingled with my measuring and the math challenges I found it necessary to issue to my brother Don. “Donny, I needed to use 16 eggs and I lost track of my count. If each one was more or less an extra large, so that they were likely about 1⁄4 cup each, then how much would the liquid volume be if I deduct the peach puree amount after I measure the combined amount over again into another bowl?” …“Just count your shells.” my logical mother says. She doesn’t realize that they are already in the compost bucket, but I pick through it and count them anyway, saving a lot of time. I’m usually good at this, as I’m actually a certified baker. My daughter Carrie Ann and I had a bakery together for 10 years in the nearby village of Komoka. But I never could talk and do math at the same time.
The loaves finally hit the oven and I set the timer. The top shelf is the first to come out and the phone rings. My sister Janice is planning a surprise birthday party for Don, and I go to my bedroom and into the walk-in closet where I can’t be heard by Don as Janice and I discuss it. Donny won’t hear over all the fans moving the hot air around. I come back out to the kitchen and resume our funny story telling— a wonderful family trait we all share. We come from story telling parents and we just can’t help ourselves. The laughter is our way of emotionally resetting the blocks in our foundation with mortar of renewed memories, and tears of sadness and joy, frequently mixed. This is preservation at its best…the preserving of family memories.
The other six loaf cakes? I rescued them from the oven twenty minutes too late. Oh well! I could save them ’til Christmas and paint them up like Yule logs, glue on a few pine cones and a big red ribbon and give them away as door stops! “Waste not! Want not!” Mom would always say and “Always put away something for a rainy day!”
Yes, Mom, I think I will. I will put away the memory of this day as a really special one— one to remember when the rains come.