The other day I was taking advantage of a cool, rainy day to get some freshly picked produce ready for the freezer. The first pickings from my garden and my friends' garden were ready to be cleaned, blanched and packed in freezer bags and containers.
One of the things I love about living here is the absence of outside noise except for the occasional hay or milk truck, the sounds of birds and a dog barking in the distance. This allows you to use all of your senses to be more present to what you are doing, which is exactly what happened while I was cleaning and snapping some freshly picked green beans. Sitting at the kitchen table, newspaper spread on the table, I snapped away. I heard each and every snap, heard the pieces hit the inside of the metal colander where I tossed them, and was suddenly transported back over 50 years to a summer day much like this one except the sun was shinning and I was sitting outside with my mother helping her clean and snap some beans for supper. I was able to see her as clearly as if she were sitting right across from me. She had on a sleeveless, cotton summer dress with a belt and two pockets, over which she wore a full flowered print apron. Her wavy brown hair was held back with bobby pins (remember them?). We each had a brown paper bag on our laps that was torn open with a pile of green beans nestled on it, and a metal colander just like the one I had on the ground between us. Every once in a while one of us would say something, but for the most part we sat in companionable silence except for that snapping sound and the tinging of the beans hitting the metal where we tossed them. I knew that these green beans would end up being part of one of her favorite summertime dishes which was boiled green beans and potatoes that were then steamed with garlic and oil, left to cool, and splashed with a little wine vinegar, a delicious summer veggie salad. I could almost taste the garlicky beans in my mouth and it actually started to water.
It is amazing how often a sound or a smell will trigger a memory of someone we love. My mother always wore Jean Nate' bath splash and to this day the smell reminds me of her. But it is the sounds and smells of the kitchen that transport me back to those days of my childhood that stand out the most. Maybe it's because they represent all that is safe and secure, the way I felt as a child when my mom was in the kitchen whipping up her magic and knowing at that moment that all was right with the world. How I wish I had turned out to be half the cook that she was so that I could have created those same feelings for my kids and grandkids, but I realized as I sat there snapping those beans the other day that each of us is charged with creating our own special memories, not borrowing someone else's and making them our own. My grandkids are more apt to remember me when they visit a garden center, or a book store, or smell coffee brewing, or touch a skein of yarn. Whatever it is, I hope it makes them feel as warm and fuzzy (and weepy, actually) as I was listening to beans snapping under my fingers.
And so it is.