By Catherine Hedge
I know how he feels. When I spoon out the jam, the fragrance wraps me so tightly in memories that I am no longer in a snowbound Kansas February. Instead, I am twelve. It’s at least an hundred degrees in Gerber, California. I’m walking with my sisters near our little grove of apricot trees. The branches are so full of sweet gold that they touch the ground. We each carry buckets and a mission: pick as many as you can carry. It’s time to make apricot jam.
The ground is littered with overripe fruit thick with fruit flies. When we step on the fallen apricots, they are slick and smell of alcohol. We don’t mind. The one rule of fruit picking is that you can eat as much as your stomach can hold. Just fill your bucket. A twelve year old is always hungry, but a dozen apricots mixed with plums and loquats will last you until lunch.
In the kitchen, big pots of bright orange pulp and sugar bubble on the stove. Nearby, my Auntie Ann is sterilizing jars in a gigantic aluminum pot while a pan of melted paraffin simmers nearby. My aunt has steam curls around her face. Though it must be 110 degrees in the kitchen, she and my mom chat happily. The sisters are best friends, but are usually separated by continents. This summer, she, my four cousins, and the seven of us live together. The day is divided into five sections, Oatmeal breakfast, picking fruit, lunch, making jam, and cooling off in the sprinkler.
I’m sure we ate dinner. We probably read books or watched t.v. Maybe we went swimming or played in the park. But those memories have long since faded. They are only marked by time. But I’ll never forget Apricot Summer. It comes back to me every time I open a jar of gold.