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What's In Your Jar

Turkey is often a central theme in my blogs. I personally find the smell of turkey significant to unlocking memories of occasions stretching back through my childhood up to the present. But turkey isn’t the only memory. Nor is Thanksgiving the only holiday.

I also remember my grandparents’ preserves with fondness: jellies, jams, vegetables. Preserves are a bit of summer sunshine transported to winter with all the care of craftspersons who loved their family by using frugalness and expertise. I look at these strings of memories not so much for the actual memory as for the new experience when the preserves are decanted.

I watched a mother and daughter the other day. Mom was a patient at a care facility where several guys and I sang gospel music regularly. On this occasion, Mom had her head resting on her daughter’s shoulder. They were both happily singing along. The daughter told us later that Mom could not, did not talk much any more. Her particular brand of dementia had taken away much of her facility in that area. But when Mom hears that music again, the frailty is what’s forgotten. She can sing along!

The daughter says that for a brief time, she has her mother back and can once again share in a favorite pastime with her Mom. She said to the guys singing, “Thank you for singing; you brought my Mom back.” Mom, you see, had preserved those treasures so that they could be decanted and enrich the winter of her life. We didn’t bring Mom back; she had memories stored away for the occasion. We maybe just loosened the lid on the jar.

To me, to be old is to share in new experiences enriched by long memories. To plumb the lines that go back through the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve tried to learn to help bring meaning to the present and the people in my life. Being old is about discovering the treasures you’ve secreted away and sharing them with others for their future. Why do you suppose so much time in retirement is spent in the attic or going through old pictures? I hope for you a legacy that includes memorable events and an attic full of preserves.

Events worth remembering are not accidental. You need to build them into your routine. You have to pick the fruit, remove the peel, slice and preserve. You need a recipe for preserves.

Go with the best fruit. You don’t can fruit from winter pickings. You have to watch for the good stuff. Capture it. Take pictures. Write about it. Talk about it. Make it a favorite story.

Don’t sit around. Fruit's available most any time. Maybe you don’t like Thanksgiving. So, celebrate Mother’s day. Celebrate the anniversary of the day you retired? An event is always there that is worth lifting up to cherish and preserve.

Be invitational. The best parties are conspiracies. It often takes many hands together to make an event special. My grandparents made preserves. But they had a better time making preserves when they had help. So, be sure to invite people with whom you want to share.

Be repetitive. Do something repeatedly. Repetition builds memories that can be recalled when other current or infrequent events seem so distant or are lost to us. I remember a lifetime of Thanksgiving dinners, for example. Mom and daughter sang those songs many, many times to together. Again and again is how you preserve memories.

Until next time. How’s retirement going for you? Got any good recipe hints for preserving memories?

Ed Zinkiewicz

…the retired guy


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