It’s the turn of Georgina Tennant to share some flash fiction. Georgie is one of those people I felt I knew cos of the magic of social media. Meeting her f2f recently was a double blessing. I’m delighted have have her on my blog.
Later today she’ll be sharing a Sunday story, but for now we’re delving into a jam jar 🙂 You can read more of her work on her blog, and follow her on Twitter @georgietenna2
The Last Jar of Jam
by Georgina Tennant
It had always felt as though the jam jars had a life-cycle of their own – a perpetual circle of being: Nan would spend hours in her kitchen, humming as she stirred bubbling saucepans and filled jars by the dozen, lined up like soldiers, with matching red and white berets, on the kitchen side board.
My boys (her great-grandsons) would charm and beg more jars from her each time we visited, hastily making the desired exchange: a clanking bag of empty jars, for two fresh jars, re-filled. They craved the jars’ sticky contents on warm buttered toast, dismissing the very idea of ‘shop-bought jam’ with utterances of contempt and disgust.
“Blackcurrant, July 2018,” the label on this one reads, in Nan’s spidery handwriting. I imagine her, on the day it was created, weaving her magic in the kitchen – stirring, tasting, checking the temperature and pouring the boiling, oozing liquid into the jars to cool.
If the jam wasn’t poured into jars, it was spread thickly between fluffy layers of sponge cake, baked especially for our too-infrequent visits. There was always a cake hunt; it was always hidden in the microwave. The children knew that, but still the game was on, the hunt never got old; eyes sparkled across generations.
Gramps would pretend the cake was only for him, feigning horror when Nan offered it, with milky tea, to the boys, or suggested we take the rest home. Tea and cake consumed and laden with even more jam, we would say our goodbyes and set off home. In recent months, only one goodbye was needed, since Gramps’ days of tea-drinking and jam-filled cake-eating had come to an abrupt end.
I wonder if I would have treated the moment with more gravitas, relished it longer, if I’d have realised, that day, that it was the last time jam would pass from Great Nan to great-grandsons. But these moments don’t come with warnings to linger, do they?
And yet, time passes, stealing from us that which felt immortal, unending.
Nan can’t make jam or cake any more, now. In the care home, the staff can’t work out why she curls her lip at the packets of jam, lined up on the breakfast table, uniform and tasteless in their gaudy, plastic packaging. But we know that she remembers how it felt to pop the lid off one of those beautiful red and white-topped glass jars, to taste the fruits of her labour on bread freshly sliced, to offer it, in cake, to excited children or a weary husband.
Robbed of her speech so suddenly, she can’t tell them any of this, but we know. We tell her how much we still love her jam, which we have to take, now, from the cupboards of her empty house, and how the taste will always linger in our mouths, long after the last drop is drained from the last jar.
The empty jars sit on my windowsill, lined up like soldiers with red and white berets. I can’t yet condemn them to the recycling, can’t quite bring myself to face the truth that the perpetual cycle is broken.
“Blackcurrant, July 2018,” declares the last remnants of Nan’s handwriting, stuck to the lid. The hot tears well up in my eyes. I can’t face the thought of reaching the bottom of this particular jar. The finality aches in my throat.
I know, when I do reach it, that the final drop will not taste sweet at all.