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Stories from the Farm

The Devil In My Mother's Jam

Both of my parents firmly believed that if you couldn't say anything good about a person, you didn't say anything at all.  I guess that is why I never heard much about Aunt Beatrice until the day my mother got the call.  She was clearly upset, so my father and I waited anxiously for the bad news.  "Mack and Beatrice - I guess she is 'Betty' now – are coming for a visit," she relayed with an exasperated sigh.

That evening, Phyllis Harris and half the ladies from the Baptist Church, showed up at our house, hugged my mother and placed their covered dishes on the table.  (Back in those days, nothing could pull a community together like party phone lines and a local telephone operator.)  Maybe Aunt Betty was returning to Glenfield for a family funeral; Mother just forgot to mention which relative had died.  Everyone went into the parlor, and my father was given strict orders to keep me out of the front room.  Fortunately, there was a register in the floor of my bedroom, directly over the parlor, and so I went to bed uncharacteristically early that night.

I pressed my ear against the grate and listened.  Aunt Beatrice left Glenfield before finishing school, snagged herself a millionaire husband, became Betty, and now lived in California, or some place equally as sinful.  I held my breath so I wouldn't miss a word.  She went to movie theaters, dance halls, wore bright red lipstick and even had pierced her ears!  Apparently "Betty" wasn't her first name change because many of the women below kept calling her "Jezebel."  "Why, that sister of yours has the Devil sitting right on her shoulder," one woman allowed.  And the "amens" that followed, confirmed it as truth.  My heart raced; I couldn't wait to meet this woman.

To my mother's great relief, and my sad disappointment, Betty had evidently grown up, mended her ways and left the Devil in California – at least that it is how it appeared until the last day of her visit.  I was allowed to stay home from church and help my aunt make "brunch" (my father figured that must be a meal eaten by lazy people, who slept late).  As soon as my parents were gone, Aunt Betty spooned out two jars of my mother's favorite raspberry-blueberry jam, and then to my horror and amazement, she pulled champagne from her suitcase and stirred in half a bottle.  (With the family Bible at church, the demon Alcohol had been given free reign in our house.)  The mixture bubbled and hissed, just like the "Lake of Fire" Rev. Nash often preached about.  I was afraid, yet delighted with my own guilty conscience.  "Don't you ever tell your mother," Aunt Betty warned, "and be sure that you only eat the strawberry jam."  I nodded, but I had another idea.

As soon as everyone was seated at the table, I was the first to reach for the evil jam and spread it on my toast, biscuit and muffin.  I even licked the spoon.  Aunt Betty glared at me, however, we both knew she couldn't say anything.  My mother took one bite and thought it tasted funny, but Mack, Betty and I all exclaimed that she made the best jam, and this one deserved a blue ribbon.  The demon of pride was apparently also at the table, because my mother smiled, and after another taste, had to agree.  By the time the bowl was empty, everyone was laughing and enjoying each other's company.  It was a wonderful way to end the visit.

Rev. Nash claimed that love could cover a multitude of sins.  I wasn't sure how many sins were in a multitude, but as I watched two women become sisters and friends again, I knew that it could easily handle the sins of deception and pride -- not to mention the demon, Alcohol.

Copyright © Fieldstone Farms, Inc., 2008
All rights reserved.


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