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The Last Generation Jar

It seems like there's something more/you ought to say or do,you know/as you eat your way slowly through/the last quart of pear preserves which you saved/till it darkened, knowing it was the last./You like them beter than you mother-in-law's/but it's just a matter of the textures,/and your wife likes the others better./These are oh so rich, and the pear chips crunch/not crisply but with a slight toughness of the meat/interspersed inside as with seeds but soft enough/to just chew and enjoy the sensation of tender grains/as you burst them disappearing on your own back teeth./She'd still cook if you'd let her,/but it's such a struggle to keep her from it/that sometimes you avoid going there and then feel guilty./You let her, some, to make up for that last pie./She left something out or put something in and it was cardboard./The standing and worry might kill her now./You're about out of excuses for bringing in or going out/to keep her breath from getting short./She's East Texas, like your wife's mom./Both came up fixing for families before dysfunctional was around./Both grew cane and made syrup with papa and/soap with mama and scalded hogs and/married men with fatal flaws who/left them alone and went to the graveyard/or went to the graveyard and left them alone.

What is there that makes them strong, you wonder,/and their preserves so good whether soft chunks/like lumpy apple butter or chipped like sweet chewy/slivers from a whittling knife?/The Depression maybe, but they deny it./We had plenty, they say. Folks without knew and sent/the kids over about suppertime. Kinfolks just came and sat down/like it was their due or something but never thanked,/maybe because of the shame, you figure. They don't/speculate, but they name names./Our world's wider and teeming, theirs less peopled./Loneliness must be the curse of survivors, the hardiness/to endure a byproduct, left-handed blessing of the fact./Some that came with them away from the farms/or followed behind told jokes about Arkansaw/that are now turned upon them by crude newcomers./To mention double cousins brings a twitter,/and the subject's changed before they get to tell/about sets of brothers marrying sets of sisters not kin./And they just keep their fingers busy or look like they didn't hear/until two months later her name comes up/and they say I don't think she's very nice or/it wouldn't hurt him to shop around a little more./And it seems like there's something else you ought to say/or do besides think and chew your distant sweets/until the day your last jar's empty/and hard care and tough pear preserves pass out of the world/like a somehow defective gene that we've learned to block.

-- J (, November 14, 2003


What a great poem!

We never had pear preserves, except bought, but my 80 year old mom (who looks about 65) still is the only one who can cook pies the way they should be, although my MIL's are pretty close. Mom did make pear butter, though, and that was always my favorite bread spread. Mmmmm, wish I had some now!

-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 16, 2003.

J -- wow! You are GOOD!

-- helen (, November 16, 2003.

Shucks (shuffling feet and looking down). Ya'll.

I do have some, um, opinions about how the previous generation of the Depression, WWII and decision, lately called "the great generation," stacks up against my boomers of the era of Vietnam and confusion, sometimes also called the "me" or "now" generation. I have great respect for our forebears. Well, most of them. A jerk is a jerk any place on the time line, but we won't go there. Hmm. "Forebears." Now there's a word Jefe and Kook could bat around.

T the C--The pear preserves were the real deal. I ate them before they went bad, wanting to remember the taste rather than to keep the petrifying jar as a reminder. Daddy's momma is gone now, and my mother-in-law has a touch of Altzheimer's and lives with us. She's beginning to fit right in! But there'll be no more pear preserves unless my wife (like me, an anachronistic throwback) decides to make some, and I'm afraid the chewy, chipped ones are gone for good as she makes the pear-butter kind like her mom did. I have actually been foolish enough to suggest doing things differently a time or two and found it unsatisfying if not downright dangerous--there's all kind of weaponry in a kitchen you know! My wife is actually a better cook than my mother-in-law was and has built on her mom's remembered recipies with original flair. She cranks out an excellent pecan pie and I know just how to do it justice (oink!).

Hey, Ol Lon writes a mean poem, better'n mine, if you can dredge one out of the swampy depths. But your stories Helen (and, truth to tell, those of some others who shall remain unnamed until they throw candy) are wunderbar (sp?)! Nonpareiel!

We have recently added onto our house and had ten or twelve yards of topsoil and dirt to get rid of. Contractor wanted $800 to do it! I almost fainted! What's that got to do with anything? Well, we started u-hauling it to an herb farm of a co-worker of my wife's on the same day that an elderly lady customer of the co-worker's had gifted her with her a great pile of pears from trees in the lady's yard. The co- worker gave us a big sackful dirt cheap (heh, heh). I'm hoping to get at least a jar of preserves out of 'em if I can get my wife to do it. Otherwise, I'll just have to wait until they ripen a little more them raw! Ah, the tough choices we face when we have pears. Someday maybe I'll relate how a can of pears rescued me from a canyon in Wyoming.

-- J (, November 17, 2003.

I think the last generation was made of sterner stuff J. Both of my Grandmothers were widowed early with 5 and 6 children each. Somehow they both managed to raise their families on very little money and not be bitter about life. They knew how to cook a meal that would "stick to your ribs" and nothing would have ever been wasted.

-- Carol (, November 18, 2003.

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