Eating Sarah Sundin's great plum jam, I am carried back many years to a manse kitchen in central Illinois. My dad, a gregarious small town Presbyterian preacher, was a thrifty man who couldnl't resist a bargain. Often in his daily travels around the rural roads surrounding town, he would stop for a visit with various church members, and sometimes purchase fruit on the verge of overripeness, that could be 'put up' as jams or preserves. The prices were exceptionally good on Saturday afternoons, when the fruit wouldn't keep until after Sunday. (It was in the days when business wasn't conducted on Sunday, nor the work to preserve the fruit.)
One Saturday afternoon he came into the kitchen beaming with pride at his latest acquisition - a huge basket of 'on the verge' damson plums. I'm sure my mother's heart dropped when she recognized the work necessary to salvage the fruit, but trouper that she was, she donned a long white apron and swathed her hair in one of Daddy's big white hankerchiefs, and attacked the pile of soft plums. Hours later, after sterilizing and filling the glass jars with the product of her labor, the kitchen table boasted many jars of beautiful red jam, still hot from the processing.
Here's where the story gets sticky. (Forgive me.) I don't know how much later it happened. Much of the story remains live, although not enhanced, from the retelling. Suddenly there began a series of loud pops emanating from the kitchen. One...two...three-four-five... Investigation revealed kitchen walls and ceiling newly redecorated with bright red polka dots dribbling down the walls. Some had even reached the hallway of the back staircase. Something had gone wrong in the sealing procedure.
I never heard my gentle, soft-spoken mother ever utter anything that even slightly resembled
a curse word, but her famous last words on that Saturday night:
"Oh, those damson plums!"
(I don't think my dad brought home much Saturday night work after that.)