Love in a Jar

First breakfast on my own. First breakfast without her.

Tea kettle’s boiled so I pour the water into the old brown betty pot. How many cups of tea has it steeped over forty years? How many cups of tea has she steeped?

Eggs and bacon for breakfast. That was her job, gathering the eggs, packing them to send to the creamery. I’ll have to do that now.

I sit at the table and reach for the jam. Strawberry jam. Jam that she put up this summer even though she was dying. I spread it across my toast.

Tears fall.

#99WordStories #CarrotRanchFlashFictionChallenge #Prompt_SmearOfJam #HighamFamilyHistory #Sorrow #Bereavement #FirstDayAlone #StrawberryJam #Love #MargaretGHanna

The backstory

When I read this week’s 99-word-story prompt, my first thought was of my maternal grandfather, Caleb Higham, facing his first breakfast the morning after his wife of 40 years had died.

Mary Higham died September, 1955, of cancer. Rather than feel sorry for herself, she worried about Caleb and how he would feed himself once she was gone. That summer, she canned everything the garden produced, including strawberries. In her letter dated July 6 to my Aunt Betty, she writes “I stayed home and canned strawberries, 71 pints so far, going to pick and put in the locker today. . . It’s all right to grow strawberries but canning them isn’t any fun.” She also found the energy to clean the house, wash the kitchen curtains, feed her turkeys and pigs, go to the Golden Jubilee celebrations at Meyronne, Limerick and Assiniboia (1955 was the 50th anniversary of Saskatchewan’s becoming a province), and entertain me (I was seven) for a few days. She was that kind of person.

And then she was gone. She was no longer physically around, but her love was still there, radiating from those 71 pints of strawberries. I hope Caleb took comfort in them even as he cried.

A Resolution

I cannot write a love letter to Nature because I have seen Nature

at its best and at its worst,

at its kindest and at its cruelest,

at its most beautiful and at its ugliest.

Romanticize, anthropomorphize, eulogize all you want,

it does not change Nature

for we are nothing to it.

We can only change ourselves.

Our ancestors understood that Nature’s forces were beyond their control.

They lived humbly within it.

Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, all who live on the edge understand this.

They live humbly within it.

I understand this, and so I propose

to live humbly, too.

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The challenge was to write a “love letter” to Nature. Perhaps if I were young and naïve, perhaps if I had not grown up on a farm, perhaps if I had not seen the horrors that “Nature” can inflict, then perhaps I could write a “love letter.” The problem, however, is not with “Nature,” it is with us and our arrogant belief that we are the pinnacle of evolution/creation/ civilization. We are not. Hence, the line: “We can only change ourselves.” We must, if the human species is to continue to survive on this planet. This is our challenge, as individuals and as a collective.


“What ya’ doing?
“Packing up Grandma’s stuff. Like this everyday china.”
“You givin’ it to the thrift store?”
“I don’t know what else to do with it. Do you want it?”
“Why would I want those plates?”
“They were Grandma’s, that’s why!”
“But they’re crazed and stained. The cups are chipped.”
“Remember her fried chicken? It was s-o-o good.”
“Yah, and her meat pies. The best.”
“She gave me my first milky tea in one of those cups.”
“Yah, and that’s why it’s chipped.”
A pause.
“Okay, I’ll take one plate, but just to remember Grandma.”
“Yah, me, too.”

#99WordStories #CarrotRanchFlashFictionChallenge #Prompt_Dishes #ChildhoodMemories #GrandmaStories #MargaretGHanna