For my mother with love, almost on the anniversary of the day I stopped eating strawberries. Thank you for teaching me about Subh Milis (sweet jam).
My youngest sister was born a week before my 10th Birthday in June.
The day my mother brought her home from hospital she sobbed big wracking cries.
In an effort to keep her big sisters occupied while the baby was introduced to her mother and the world in the maternity hospital, Dad had taken us to pick strawberries. We had horsed them into us at the fruit farm, drunk on sunripe berries. When we couldn’t eat anymore we each filled a 1lb punnet along with Dad. That made four groaning pounds of strawberries sitting on the counter the morning of the baby’s triumphant arrival home.
Granny clacked to the back door and peered in to be met by a waft of sweet scent from the strawberries.
“They’ll go off”, she proclaimed, “you’d better jam them”.
Dad’s jaw lowered and the hover fruit flies humming in the vicinty looked like they might become the main protein of his day.
Granny’s footsteps faded as she traipsed back down the path but became louder as she returned with heavy bags of jam sugar.
She hoiked them onto the counter beside the strawberries.
“There. Don’t let them go to waste.”
The jampot was filled, and the jam began to bubble.
Preserves can’t be made without testers.
Hyper from the prospect of meeting our new sister for the first time, my siblings and I gratefully filled ourselves with oversized spoons of warm, luscious jam.
Sticky-fingered, we ran through the house, down the garden and to Granny’s to tell her of Dad’s success.
Mam arrived home, with the fruits of her labour in her arms only to see Dad’s new produce.
10 jars of strawberry jam.
Rivulets of sticky,drippy jam running on the stovetop, counter, sink, up and down the doors.
I would have cried too.
Subh Milis Ó Séamus Ó Néill
Bhí subh milis
Ar bhaschrann an dorais
Ach mhúch mé an corraí
Mar smaoinigh mé ar an lá
A bheas an baschrann glan,
Agus an láimh bheag
Sweet Jam by Séamus Ó Néill
There was jam
On the doorhandle
But I suppressed the anger
That rose up in me,
Because I thought of the day
That the doorhandle would be clean
And the little hand
Would be gone.