It's been healthy returning to some old favorite activities recently, like taking a morning out of the weekend to stroll the farmer's market, moved indoors until the warmer weather, rife with knitted goods and the remains of winter vegetables, mostly a few assorted, tired-looking squash, the every populous parsnips no one likes and apples, so many apples. I buy them by the basket. Potatoes too.
Saturday morning I took the kids by myself. We sang along with the new Jack Johnson CD (they like it, so hush) on the way out past the edge of the city and instead of the usual suspects in root vegetables we were greeted with new boxes of glorious early spring fruits, better than what I can find at the grocery store. Mountains of gorgeous California strawberries.
Before I knew what I was doing, I asked the man selling them for ten pounds, wrapped to travel. After all, it's been three seasons since I bottled jam for the dry pantry, we're all but out of it now. I was practically drooling. It was all I could think about as I fixed lunch on Sunday and then cleaned up, fielded a half-dozen phone calls and then sent the kids to play so I could start.
I picked up my paring knife and then I changed my mind, heading upstairs to the bedroom. I opened the closet and got out the big wooden box and dug through journals and treasures until I found what I was looking for, and then I returned to the kitchen, took the big bowl full of berries and a newspaper and brought it out into the sunny front porch, thankful I had my sweater on. It's still cool but the sun makes a huge difference. I sat down on the floor and opened Jacob's jackknife, retrieved from the box of memories because he always said it did the best job.
I sat humming and hulling berries for around thirty minutes when the porch door slammed shut behind me. I asked Henry to go easy on the doors and continued to work and suddenly I felt a soft breeze on my neck, like someone walking past me, only gentler. I turned my head and no one was there and all the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
Then once again, the most gentle movement again, on the back of my neck. A kiss. A kiss made by someone who isn't there any more. A kiss bestowed to let me know that he is most definitely watching over me, and that he is happy I am keeping with our strawberry traditions, that the work that goes into preparing the berries and cooking and storing the jam properly so that it makes it through the year is so much more satisfying and wonderful than heading to the grocery store for a three-dollar jar of brand-name jam. Commercial facist jam, corporate artificial sweetness, Jacob called it. Capitalist Smuck.
He approves of me making jam, then. I almost screamed in agony. I knew that kiss. Oh, how I wanted that kiss, but from his flesh and blood, not from his memory, a mere ghost to haunt the rooms I am in. On the other hand, I wanted to feel him, I complained that I couldn't feel him, that I didn't have him here with me, and he is here to tell me I do.
I feel him.
He is here.
Watching me make his strawberry jam.