There were ten children. Now they are older; some of them gone, some of them in their 90’s and traveling to Paris.

My Grandma. One of the Ten.

They move slowly now and I don’t think they tell me enough stories (there are never enough stories).

I’ve noticed though, that if you put them near some fresh fruit and give them a pairing knife, they start working and then they start talking.

I stood in my mother’s kitchen by the sink with a basket full of peaches. The smell was summer. I started to peel and slice and sugar and bag, thinking of frozen peaches in winter. Frozen peaches for a frozen season. I never do that sort of Little House on The Prairie thing, but I have three boys now and they eat. And eat.

off to the orchard, an ancient practice in the summer

She came in and offered to help me peel. Together we stood over the sink, she peeled and I sliced. She told me about the summers of her youth, with the tin wash bins full of peaches and the ten kids sitting under the tree, peeling and slicing.

She said they hated doing it and the peaches weren’t free stone, but her Daddy was usually around to pry the peach away from it’s pit. It was a family affair.

In the wintertime, they would be glad for the jars of peaches, were they half gallon jars? I don’t remember. After school they would grab a jar and eat it. They didn’t have much money, but they had a lot of gold, syrupy sweet and ready for ten mouths to eat.

She mentioned again how much they despised sitting outside in the summer heat, peeling and peeling peaches. I asked her why she was helping me then, and she laughed and said, “I guess it’s just something you get trained do. It brings back memories now.”

There’s magic in the domestic arts, and together, over my Mamma’s sink, we preserved the summer bounty and the memories of another place.

What makes you feel connected to your family? What brings back memories for you?

10 thoughts on “Preserving

  1. this is lovely, joann…. and i used to hate having to garden, but now i like these domestic arts, the art of putting away for later use, and of course the taste of summer, fresh, in a cold winter. i love even more the richness of family sharing and doing. and no, there are never enough stories….


  2. I used to love to snap beans with my paternal grandma. And roll pennies. And put together puzzles. I don't have many memories of her outside of her house, and we always did simple things, there. Those simple things were enough. She died in '92, when I was a freshman in college. I'd love to have her back for just one day, now that I'm a mommy.

    I was super close to my maternal grandma, too, and she's still alive. She has Alzheimer's, though, and hasn't remembered me for years.


  3. Beautiful, Joann!

    I love when my grandparents or parents visit and we hover in the kitchen together, making meals together. In tiny spaces, we slide around, search for knives, wash lettuce, cut tomatoes, and boil rice. Smells waft, music plays, and three or four generations do life together. It is a treasure for me, and one I always want to savor.

    Thanks for letting me peak into your peaches and grandma time, smelling their sweet scent with you. It makes me long for my next time with my family too…

    Jennifer Dougan


  4. So good JoAnn….I lovity love loved this. I want to hear more grandma stories, too. She sounds cool. I just peeled a bunch of peaches last week, and tomatoes today. The peeling part is my least favorite, but eating summer in the dead of winter makes it worth the work.


  5. My husband loves to peel peaches and do strawberries too. I do not. I used to freeze bunches but with the kids grown…they don't get eaten. My mom and dad did 92 quarts of apples the last summer they were on the farm. They loved to do it. Now I wish I would have asked Dad more stories when he was able to tell them.


  6. I love this post. I don't often comment – in fact, I'm not sure if I ever have – but I just wanted to say that I read every post, and appreciate that you take the time to share. Your posts are often amusing and sometimes poignant, and always brighten my day. Thank you!


  7. Uncorking wine always makes me feel connected to my family. Truly. One worked in the vino business for 50 years and his fondest stories are often wrapped up in grape leaves in one way or another. The thought of fresh peaches makes me yearn for the times when folks didn't have to consciously unplug to reap the bounty of nature, you know? They just did it because that's what they knew to do to pass the time or survive. Or both.


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