|one of my old pots from my grandmother|
My husband and I went to a Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, and among other good things, we bought enough green beans to fill a large pot, along with some onions and new potatoes. It’s a dinner that we have in the fall once or twice, enjoying the freshness of the vegetables and the memories that go with it. Both my husband and I grew up with family members who gardened and canned, so we have eaten all the garden dishes you can imagine. As I prepared the green beans (or snap beans, as they are sometimes called), I remembered…
I’m sitting here on the side porch outside the kitchen with my grandmother and mother and Aunt Carol, all of us with a sheet of newspaper spread across our laps, snapping green beans into old pots, getting them ready to cook and can. I’m wearing one of my grandmother’s aprons, even at ten, happy to be included in this special woman’s group doing important work. Aunt Barb is in the kitchen, washing the canning jars for the pressure cooker, waiting for the beans. My brother and two cousins are in the wooden playpen at the end of the porch. All toddlers, they are standing and sitting, throwing toys over the sides, watching to see who might get up to give them back. They won’t last long in there; they’re too big and too curious, want to be wandering around the porch, picking up lost beans and any other little thing that catches their eye. They like to sit on the swing, too, but when up, will soon crawl down to move somewhere else.
Snap, snap go the beans; plop go the ends onto the paper. It’s so hot in the kitchen, and will only get hotter as we work most of the day. The weatherman says it’s going to be near 100º and with the humidity in Missouri, although we started early in the morning, it’s already warm and still. Fans whirr in every room, but only stir the air. Aunt Barb comes to the door pulling her apron up to wipe her face. “Whew,” she says, “I’m about to melt.” My grandmother says, ‘I’ll come in to take over,“ but “no,” my aunt replies, “It’s all right, I just wanted the little cooler air out here on the porch. How are you all doing?” Mom says, “lots done, more left to do. Your vines gave so many this year, how many plants did you plant?” “I did the whole row this time,” Aunt Barb says, “we ran out in late winter and I want enough to last.”
We snap and rustle in our seats, tired of sitting, wishing for a cool breeze from round the corner. My grandmother tells me not to break the beans into so many little pieces, “just two or three” she says. Aunt Carol is quiet, puts down her beans and stands up, stretches. She’s pregnant again, and already uncomfortable. We’re all so excited because she’s expecting twins. I am thrilled to have twin cousins to add to the two I already have, but my Aunt Carol is little, and since I don’t know exactly how having babies works, I worry about her. I make a secret promise to visit often to help her do the housekeeping. Mom puts more beans in my newspaper and I go back to work, thinking about the later afternoon when I can lie in the swing on the front porch to read. I have a new book called Anne of Green Gables that the librarian suggested and I am looking forward to starting. It’s September and I don’t have much homework. I’ll have the whole rest of the day to read.
It’s quiet, and “Snap, snap, snap” is the only sound. Even the babies are quiet. We are intent on our job, and I am content to be here. I look up to find my mother looking at me, smiling, with a prideful smile that keeps me going. Soon the jars of green will be lined up in the kitchen pantry, cooling, then divided up among the families. They did the beets a few days ago; it’ll soon be time for the tomatoes. Later on in the fall, the best day arrives: we’ll gather to peel bushels and bushels of apples to make apple butter with other family members, Aunt May and Aunt Belva, Grandmother Rohlfing, and nearby neighbors. That’s another memory of women and work and making the food to last through the winter.
|not on the porch, but now on a patio, no one here but ghosts of the past|