For as long as I can remember, we have left Mama and Papa's house (that's Ma-maw and Pa-paw for those who spell it correctly) with mason jars and freezer bags of things they have put up that year; fig preserves, pears,sweet pickles, pink lady peas, black eyed peas, butter beans, pecans and peanuts (oh the peanuts..).
A few weeks ago after a visit, I came home with figs, a bag of pecans that Papa had already shelled, and peas. My freezer and pantry were stocked and everyone is happy when Momma says on a Sunday we'll be having "Mama and Papa" Peas for dinner or Figs wrapped in prosciutto with goat cheese(okay...so the adults are happy about that one but have you tried it? Game changer.)
We always leave with something. It's such a simple act of love. He sent us home with a 6 lb tub of fresh figs from his tree and we decided to take our first stab at canning Figs. I have been tasting this goodness my entire life on biscuits, toast or right from the jar so it was high time we give it a try. We decided to go the jam and jelly route as opposed to preserves for that is what we use most of all and to find our own spin on it. And frankly, I don't think I could ever make as tasty of preserves as my grandparents.
I LOVED that day. I wish I could bottle it up and pull it out when I need a great day. I found it incredibly therapeutic to chop and cook and smell the figs cooking. The house smelled divine. I played my favorite Dolly record (Trio with Linda Rondstandt and Emmylou Harris) and just got lost in the process of cooking down the figs and prepping my jars all to the melody of Dolly singing about Wildflowers and Dear Companions. This love of the old meeting the new...I adore it. It may have something to do with my insane collection of mason jars. It connects me to that part of our life. Also, mason jars are just crazy useful for everything.
Mama passed away almost exactly a year ago. This October they would have been married 63 years. SIXTY THREE!!! A year is basically a second of time in the mourning process when you've spent so long with someone you love. This last visit it was brought to my attention that Papa is 'closing shop' on the puttin' up. He will not be canning or freezing things any longer. I'm sure it makes him sad as it was something they did as a team. I get it. Will I survive without bags of peas and jars of preserves? Of course. Can I get those things somewhere locally and continue the tradition myself? Sure. And I will.
But I'm sad. So sad. I'm sad that when I visit he won't disappear into the room with the freezers for a couple of minutes before we leave and reappear with hand fulls of goodies for me. He usually has a Styrofoam cooler on the ready. I never remember to bring one even though I KNOW he'll send me with something. My sadness,...it's not about the food. Although cooking the peas is one of my favorite smells. Like fresh cut grass or a bonfire. It makes my house smell like my grandparents' house. Does that makes sense? It's AH-MAZING! Feeling blue? Cook some Mama peas...stat!
It's about the love. The tradition. The pride. I hope he reconsiders. Please reconsider. I hope he knows that by continuing to do this it keeps the memories alive. In my mind he is honoring my Mama by doing something that she viewed as an act of love. If you entered her home you were going to eat. Cake? Fruit? Boiled Peanuts? A biscuit left over from breakfast? Just take your pick. SOMETHING! JUST EAT...and be sure to ask for more. True southern hospitality ooze from my grandparents on both sides. It was simple. Not the hospitality that you see in a spread in Southern Living with expensive linens and candelabras. No. I'm talking about the spirit of hospitality. Making someone feel welcomed and loved when they walked in the door. Handing them a glass of tea or cup of coffee and offering up conversation. Just giving...of themselves. You were going to leave with a full belly, full hands and full heart.
I hope that by finding my own traditions and ways of honoring that spirit that someone will think of me that way one day. What traditions are you keeping alive? What are your favorite traditions in your family that you'd miss? I'd love to hear.....