What better way to spend a cool, rainy summer day than hanging out with family and cooking lots and lots of food? Ever since I was a little girl, every year around this time my family buys up lots of corn and tomatoes and peaches and we spend at least one entire day cooking up our bounty and putting it up so that we can enjoy yummy fresh fruits and veggies throughout the winter. This has turned out to be one of my favorite and most cherished events of the season. Even though by the end of the day we are completely worn out, we have a great time and it is truly a bonding experience for all involved. This year was the first year that Chunker was in attendance, making the day even more special for everyone.
Today I got to my mom’s bright and early to start in on the cooking. Luckily, Chunk Butt slept really well last night and was in a great mood, so we were able to get the day off to a good start. I loaded up the car with every baby item you could imagine and started our forty-five minutes trek to Grandma’s house. When we got there, of course, she was already hard at it. (Mind you, we got there about ten o’clock. Getting there any earlier is an impossibility.) First thing, we had friends from out of town come over who hadn’t met the baby yet, so we were able to show him off, which is of course one of our favorite things. He is a complete ham, so that is always a delight. After they left, we had lunch with some of best tomatoes you have ever seen in your life. Chunker even got to slobber all over a piece or two. Apparently, he is a fan.
Once lunch was done, I quickly found out that we had about one hundred pounds of tomatoes to do something with, plus two dozen ear of corn. We slaved away all day long making salsa and tomato juice and fresh corn to can and put in the freezer. Everything we make is so yummy and it is so much fun to do, but do you wanna know my favorite thing about this annual get together? Every single year, while we fix and put up these yummy items, we end up talking about our loved ones, particularly those that have gone before us. We share our favorite memories and ponder all the things we would have liked to have done or learned with each person. My grandpa always comes to mind when we get together. I would have loved for him so much to meet my son. He was the greatest man in the world and I have no doubt that the two of them would have been best buddies. It is no telling what kind of trouble they could have gotten into or the stories they could have come up with while the rest of us were elbow deep in tomato goop. We also talked about my great grandmothers. They were both fantastic cooks. One of them could make macaroni and cheese like you wouldn’t believe and the other made chicken and dumplings that were out of this world. I was young when I lost both of them, but think of all the things that I could have learned if I had been old enough, if I would have known to ask. It is so difficult to think that those we love aren’t permanent and that every moment we have with them is numbered.
The added bonus this year was watching my entire family play with my son in the midst of all the produce-laden chaos. He giggled and played and kept everyone entertained the entire day. He tasted tomatoes and cookies and chocolate milk and sweet tea and did all the things that little boys do at their grandma’s house. These are the new family traditions that we are working to make. These are the memories that will last a lifetime. He may not remember the times when he was little and given a bath in the sink by his Grandma Fro and Pa, but we will. He won’t remember giggling on the back porch while trying to sit up, but we will. At the end of the day when all is said and done, days like these are what we will all cherish most. When it seems like the world slows down a little and lets you enjoy a perfect day with the ones you love. Those are the moments we live for.