Raspberry Romance

Memories in a jar of jam.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY LINDA COOK DEVONA

Many pick-your-own farms dot the New Jersey countryside where we live. One of our favorites is Valley View Farm, where we harvest the sweetest, juiciest red raspberries around. Carole and I arrive early on an August morning, before the throngs show up.

“It’s been a mild summer. Do you think winter’ll be colder than normal?” I ask while we pick.

“I hope not,” Carole replies.

“I’ve already cut four cords of wood, so we’ll be prepared.”

“The grandkids are coming Saturday. They’ll be spending the week,” Carole reminds me.

Carole blows me a kiss. I love flirting with my wife in the berry patch.

“Maybe I’ll get them to weed the flower-beds. I’ll pay them.”

“George, you know they hate weeding.”

I change the subject. “Carole, watch out for those wasps,” I warn. “The berries’ sweetness attracts them—just like your sweetness attracted me all those years ago. I don’t say it enough, but I love you, Carole. I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”

Carole blows me a kiss. I love flirting with my wife in the berry patch! Makes me feel young again.

“See that happy couple over there with the three school-age kids?” I ask. “They look like us decades ago, don’t they?”

“George, stop traveling down Memory Lane. And stop eating half of what you pick!”

I increase production. We pick five full pints, pay, and exit.

Once home, Carole washes the berries and cooks them down with sugar and pectin to make the most delicious jam. After funneling the jam into jars, we process them in a hot-water bath. The lids later pop, signaling the jars have safely sealed. After labeling the jars, I line them up on the pantry shelf.

Unfortunately, winter arrives early, frigid with successive arctic blasts from Canada. I stoke the embers in the woodstove, open the vents, and add kindling. Soon the fire flares up, and I toss in two big pieces of oak.

In the kitchen, Carole makes breakfast. She pops open a jar of summertime red raspberry jam. I slather some on her hot buttermilk pancakes.

Carole lifts a jar in her hand and conducts an impromptu Alzheimer’s check: “George, do you remember when we picked these red raspberries?”

“Of course. It was early August, it was a beautiful day, and we were at Valley View Farm.” Then I add, “And you, do you remember what I said?”

Carole smiles, but doesn’t speak.

“I always will,” I say.


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