September 9, 2013 7:50 a.m. A week ago today I started this blog post, my final day (in my grand scheme of things) to have my agent query package for my novel ready to send out.
But, tell me, with such an important writing deadline pending, why is it that my whole household goes berserk? Why am I out of my usual spot at the kitchen sink washing dishes, planning another meal, preparing another meal...? What else is new? My writing plans often take a back seat to life.
I set this goal in the spring after Spalding’s homecoming. I could learn a lesson here; listen to the Bard. Spring doth not a summer make, nor can spring predict all summer activities. Family reunions, visits from family members, my son and his family going to the Alabama-VA Tech game in Atlanta, etc.? I did know we had committed to keeping Will, our four-year-old grandson, for most of the games, but who knew the first game was on Labor Day weekend? Will they soon be starting football on the Fourth? Life--and football season, happens.
I woke up last Monday with two 5-gallon buckets of beautiful pears, a basketful of magnificent peaches, and about two quarts of muscadines in my kitchen. Let me remind you that I cannot stand to waste anything. It’s in my genes. My mother and sisters were recycling and re-purposing before the words were coined. Truly I’d much rather write about pears and muscadines than preserve them, or blog about how my sweet nephew climbed on a tall ladder to pick the pears because he knows I want the large ones and he knows I do not want them shaken from the tree to end up with bruises. Thank you, James. Or about his brother who ate with me recently and I complained about how tasteless the peaches were this year with all the rain. He told me then he lived near an orchard and was going to bring me some good peaches. Thank you, Claudy.
And then there was the Great Muscadine Pickin’ in our back yard last Sunday after church. Will (remember, he’s four) wanted first to take those pears to “Grandmudder’s house to feed the cows.” We did that last year in Anniston when the two old pear trees were loaded with pears. His excitement was unequaled in any child I’ve seen since his daddy was a child. Although I told him the pears had to be peeled for pear preserves, he couldn’t hear that. He didn’t even know the word preserves, so I decided to teach him a new word: muscadine. He didn’t forget his goal: “Go feed the cows at Grandmudder’s.” Even after a nap those were the first words from his mouth. Muscadines, I kept repeating. We have to go pick some muscadines for jelly this afternoon. I knew they were ripe and that he could pick some of the low-hanging ones and some of the higher ones with a step stool from the kitchen.
“Okay,” he conceded, “we’ll pick the Muscadines, and then we’ll go to Grandmudder’s to feed the pears to the cows.”
I thought my perseverance and tenacity and downright “stubborn as a mule-ness” equaled anything I’d ever seen, but he has me outdone in spades. Fortunately he got so sidetracked with picking the Muscadines that the afternoon passed very quickly. By the time he had watered my wilting Old Maids in the pot by the garage, and watered my neighbor’s plants at her garage while they were away, he was happy to go inside and take a bath before his dad arrived to pick him up.
Any fruit in my kitchen is like a magnet; I’d rather write about it than work all the kinks out of a plot in this everlasting and infernal novel I’m revising. I’d rather slice the peaches, pour sugar over them, let it melt, freeze them, or just go ahead and bake the peach cobbler. Worry the dough, worry the dough... And washing pears, peeling pears, and slicing pears is not a bad thing to do: you can do it and be just about brain dead. Cover them with sugar and let them sit overnight for that amount of sugar to melt before cooking pear preserves with the thinnest lemon slices. Wash and squish and cook the muscadines for their juice. They have the strongest pull—their tart tickles my nose.
The ending to this blog I wrote last Monday:
We’ll see if Will is higher on the cussed determination ruler than I am. We’ll see whether I can abandon the kitchen, abandon this blog, and move right into Libby’s plight in the novel with so much tragedy going on in her life. I don’t like tragedy. I don’t like to write about tragedy. I want to stir a pot of bubbling pears. I want to watch the big bubbles grow small, pack the golden sugary pears into fruit jars, seal them, give them a boiling bath for ten minutes, and listen for each separate click, the final step in preservation that assures the fruit will last until Will turns five next summer.
The revision of the ending:
I know where Will got his determination—or some of it. I didn’t abandon the kitchen or my desk. I determined that the hours between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. are totally mine. No one calls. No meals are required. No laundry. No meetings. Perfect time. I could be at my desk during my most fruitful hours. Any of the other hours of the day could be spent preserving fruit. I have canned 20 pints of pear preserves and cooked one gallon of grape juice for jelly. (James later brought me a bucket of Concord grapes.) I’ve started the jelly: nine pints, a good start. Four were from Will’s muscadines and their juice to which I added some grape juice. This weekend we had both Will and his big sister, Victoria. We picked muscadines again. Guess what’s simmering on the stove as I write? And I'm about to post this blog. Fait accompli!