Jamming in the Monroe Avenue Kitchen

Debra Monthei Manske

Early morning, I stand in a tiny kitchen
knowing there is barely room
to spread my elbows, and feel a momentary loneliness,
a missing sort of feeling
a memory sort of notion
of women laughing as peach juice
runs down their arms, dodging each
other with hot-pad-holder hands.

I pull out the sugar canister,
a gift from my Aunt Gladys who
appears at my elbow saying
“How marvelous!” and as
I take a spoon from the 1890’s spooner
my grandmothers appear sitting in the corners,
Anna playing solitaire while
Blanche shuffles the cards for Flinch.

I coax the juice from a lemon with a bright
yellow thing-a-ma-bob from my sister and
there she stands washing last night’s dishes
to “make a little room” and
I rinse the jars and measure
the sugar into a blue pottery bowl I
bought at a rummage sale
with my mother-- for whom the jam is intended-- 

and pour myself an iced tea
so she pours herself one too, and says, “not so
much sugar now,” and, as always,
I pay no attention.
I peel the peaches in just the way the
tells me to--making note that slips right off
is more encouragement than actual fact.

I ‘chop fine’ on the cutting board
my son gave me last Christmas to replace the
one he’d made in high school, MOM burned on its back.
“You should have something better than that,” he chides.
I add a little cinnamon
to the sugar with the antique spoon
his wife found at the Canterbury Garden Market
as she waves from the background.

I pause in mid air as
my husband glides by to grab a cup of coffee.
He smiles at the knife he provided the day after I cut my
finger on the one previously in my employ.
I carefully taste the hot jam
with the Hickory tasting-spoon my brother so
admired and he appears behind my right shoulder
to smack his lips.

I text the dear girlfriend I’d
done so much canning with when our boys had not yet
provided grandchildren and she instructs again on
the water bath versus paraffin options so
I arrange the jars in the pot
and set the timer on the cell phone, as son-number-two
instructs, then get to work on the stickiness strewn
about—wash, dry, put away.

I hang the gingham apron by the door
to face book my friends a photo, 
as the last PING announces
time to celebrate good
seals all around
and my visitors
slip away. 

 Debra Monthei Manske

Debra Monthei Manske

Debra Monthei Manske lives near Lake Michigan with her husband, Mark, and writes poetry, essays, children's literature and letters because she hasn’t figured out how to stop. She has several poems published in the WFOP Calendars and a couple in Book Lovers Magazine and once won $50 from a scam contest but she spent the money anyway. She is a retired RN and an avid grandmother as well as an awful gardener, but that doesn’t stop her. Poetry has been a fascination since Mr. Dillard read it to her seventh grade class from a tall stool in the middle of the room, and learning to write it has been the most fun ever.