Mama... a name that says so many things... Friend, Companion, Confidante, Fan, Champion, Hero, Fun, Laughter, Hugs and Kisses, Nurse, Cook, Psychologist, Repairman, Chauffeur, Maid, Alarm Clock, Fashion Consultant, Hairdresser, need I go on? Mama... covers it all!
My Mama has been gone almost three years now and this Mother's Day I miss her more than ever.
But, let's talk a little about canning...
I learned how to can from my sweet Mama, who learned from her Mama, who learned from hers... we come from a long line of homemakers, I suppose. From the time I can remember, I helped with the summer canning, whether it was stringing and breaking bushels of green beans or carrying scraps out to the slop bucket, or playing with the babies so the older women could work...
I don't remember a time when we weren't "putting up food" in the summers... canning, freezing, stirring up goodness for the winter.
My Mama, and her sisters and sisters-in-law sort of had a contest each summer... their goal? to can at least 100 quarts of green beans! I learned early on that one bushel of green beans would make 21 quarts of canned beans... and there were 7 quarts to a canner "run." So a bushel of green beans would make 3 runs of canned beans. There were summers when we would get close... maybe 85 quarts, and Mama would be a little disappointed in herself... and then there were summers we would approach 200 quarts... now THAT was success at our house!
One memory stands out... this was after I was grown and had one little newborn baby girl, my firstborn, Jill. My sister was 12 years younger than I was, so she was at the "fetch and carry" age, making cold drinks for Mama, me, and my aunts as we worked to string, break, wash, blanch, and can the day away... my sweet baby girl napped while we worked... my sister, Beth, played with her when she was awake, changed diapers, and warmed bottles.
One time Mama sent Bethie into the kitchen to make us all a glass of tea or lemonade or something... and Beth came back into the dining room where we sat around the big dining table working... her face was a bit pale... "Mama, there's a snake in the kitchen!"
Sure enough... laying there stretched out in the middle of the kitchen floor... a LONG black snake! Now, the women of my family, while strong and hardworking ladies that they were... were deathly afraid of snakes... there were shrieks and screams and running amok! If memory serves, one of my brothers was chosen to remove the snake from the kitchen... good thing! if the ladies had their way there would have been a bullet hole in the kitchen floor and snake parts all over... or at least ax marks and a chopped up reptile! Daddy never wanted black snakes killed, they ate rats and mice and scared poisonous snakes away... he usually just took them down to the barn and let them go... but THIS snake had invaded the house! I honestly don't remember whether that snake met his death that day or if my brother took him to the barn... I do remember that peace reigned once again in the house and the green bean processing continued.
There are so many memories running through my head of canning with Mama and the aunts... there was always a lot of gossiping, talking, singing, and laughter 'til the tears flowed... it made the work go faster and almost like a game. At the end of the long, hot day... we were hot, sweaty, and exhausted, but each time we heard the PING of a successfully sealed jar, each tired face around that table brightened up, the "Ooohs" would escape each mouth, and we all swelled with pride with the satisfying feeling of a job well done.
This Mother's Day I miss my Mama more and more... if your own Mama is still with you, call her, go see her, take her some flowers, give her a hug and tell her you love her.
Happy Mother's Day! I love you Mama!
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