FIRST THINGS

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Jason B. HarmonJason B. Harmon

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The old canning jars were lined along the shelf in the root cellar, as if patiently waiting for foul weather to rob the land of fresh foods. Yet, those odd-sized containers with rusted lids were never used as planned.

Unfortunately, the fruits, vegetables and meats within those jars were too old to eat by the time my father and I got around to cleaning out my great-grandmother's belongings several years ago.

Frankie - as my great-grandmother was named when she was born in 1910 - was always an avid canner, like most country women, and left behind many unused jars of food when she died.

To me, those abandoned jars held more than mere food. As I gazed at the glass, I realized that each jar held memories of times that would never come again.

The canned apples reminded me about the fried apple pies Frankie made each Christmas. As a boy growing up in the modern world of fast food conveniences, I took the treats she made for granted. Little did I know at the time, but the foil-wrapped pies that filled a gift-wrapped shoebox were handcrafted expressions of caring, not just holiday goodies that left me with a stomach ache when I ate too many.

On another shelf, potatoes were slowing fading into unrecognizable mush inside an ornate Mason jar. Those uneaten vegetables could've been some of the same potatoes that I helped Frankie and my great-grandfather, Silby Gaylor, dig from the ground as a youth.

The big garden was long gone - like Silby and Frankie -and I was left to carry the memories of those days of digging potatoes in the sun.

Tucked behind jars of jelly in that damp cellar sat another testament to my great-grandparent's tenacity: cash money, stuffed into tightly-sealed jars. It wasn't much money, only a few dollars. Yet, to people who survived the Great Depression, that cash was once almost as vital as the canned food nearby.

As I stared at the canned goods, I wasn't sad, despite the fact that the old house would never be the same. Instead, I walked away with a smile, secure in the knowledge that my memories of those days of fried pies and potato digging would be forever preserved.

Jason B. Harmon, Editor jharmon@ogdenpubs.com