Caring for a parent

My Mother the Dream Squelcher

Mama has a September obsession with making applesauce to freeze. It goes on and on and on. She has two apple trees, and the neighbors have several; and they give her apples. She can’t bear for a single fruit to go unpreserved.

The early Transparent variety is already in the freezer, except for the ones still in the refrigerator; and the Gravensteins are just arriving. A stiff wind today shook a bunch of them onto the ground, and I picked up a bucket full before the deer family found them (even though Mama said they probably weren’t any good if they were on the ground—I left the not good ones for the deer).

I have been thinking about my future, and without going into details of what I am dreaming about, let me just say that canning is involved. I haven’t canned since the 
grad-school-poor period in the late ‘70s/early ’80s when I got messy with tomatoes. But I remember my mother canning. She and my dad would drive to the Yakima Valley and bring home apples and peaches and tomatoes and vegetables for canning. She made jelly and jam and filled the shelves in the pantry in my dad’s workshop. They sat in their glory on clean dish towels at the back of the kitchen counter and pop pop popped. I did rather love it.

In a moment of insanity (but with considerable forethought), I decided to ask Mama if she would like to can some applesauce, rather than freezing.

“Oh, I don’t think I would be able to do that.”

“Well, uh, not by yourself. I would help. You could teach me.”

“I don’t know if I can remember how.”

“We can look up instructions and figure it out.”

“It would take a longer than freezing them. And the Gravensteins have to be peeled, whether they are frozen or canned. Unless you want to spit out the peels when you eat it.” (I didn’t mention the grinder strainer thing she uses. Saved that for later.)

“What if you just said, ‘Yes! I haven’t done that in so long! I would love to do it with you! What a great idea!’”

[Laugh—or was it a scoff?] “Ok…”

And this is why I don’t share my fragile dreams with her. I thought I would practice on canning. It’s a small thing. I did abandon my first idea of making and canning jelly with the much maligned—by her—Himalayan blackberries that I pick and eat on my morning walks. I decided I couldn’t deal with the naysaying to that. At least she desires and is already making applesauce.

I was also excited today to find that some of the plums are ripe. (I hadn’t even known until recently that there was a plum tree.) I thought she would be so excited when I brought her a handful of the beautiful purple-blue fruit. Her response was that there hasn’t been a good plum off that tree in years; said in a tone that implied skepticism that these were any good, though she has been raving about the plums the neighbor brought her from their tree. But she just told me that she tried one and it was really sweet and good! “I always thought,” she said, “they had to be cooked.”

It is not only glaucoma and macular degeneration that limit her vision, but her tightly gripped “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” story that she has told herself for so long that she is blind to any other. And that she tries to give to me as hard as I try to give my “I can, I can, I can” story to her.

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6 thoughts on “My Mother the Dream Squelcher”

  1. I hope none of my children are holding a “my mother the dream squelcher” in their brain!!! There is a dream in this house from one and I hope to help her with it!! Oh, those Italian Prunes in the picture look very yummy!! My favorite!!


  2. My parents used to make an annual trip to Yakima for fruit too. My mother canned all sorts of fruit and made pickles. My favorites were always the apricot and peach preserves. Just start some canning. I am sure your mother will come in to tell you what you are doing wrong :<)


  3. Plum jelly is my absolute favorite! I hope to do more canning some day. Thanks for the reminder to live out of “I can” and not “I can’t”. Sometimes I forget how limiting that story can be…


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