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Stories from the Farm

Local Gossip and Plum Preserves

Without a doubt, Phyllis Elizabeth Harris was the primary reason my mother made plum preserves.  Phyllis was the local telephone operator, and her husband, Walter, was an officer at Glenfield Trust, so they had a little bit of money.  They owned a big house – right in town -- always drove a new car, and each year they went on a vacation.  Phyllis indulged herself with clothes from the Lady's Shop, at the upper end of town, expensive jewelry, stylish hats to match every outfit, and of course, a fair supply of my mother's homemade plum preserve.  Every time the Harris's came to visit, you could be sure that Phyllis went home with a jar in her handbag.  She always offered to pay for the jam, but to my knowledge, no money ever changed hands.  My mother, however, always seemed to get something of equal, or greater, value in return.
Now Phyllis wasn't one for gossip, and she was always quick to point out that the important positions held by both her and her husband required the strictest of confidence and a high level of respect for personal privacy.  That is why she needed to trust someone fully before she would pass along any news she had overheard.  Apparently, she trusted us, (my father claimed there wasn't a person in town she didn't trust) because every meal they ate at our house read like a page from tomorrow's newspaper.  We learned about who was courting, getting married, expecting a baby, buying a house, starting a business, moving away or dying, along with a host of other interesting facts.  My favorite memory of those visits was the time she told about overhearing Reverend Nash use a curse word on the telephone.  The other party had gasped, and so had Phyllis.  She repeated the word - right at our kitchen table.  My mother gasped.  My father smirked.  I was delighted.  I had never heard the word before, especially on our farm, but judging from the response, it must have been a bad one.  Naturally,  I couldn't wait to try it out around my friends at school.
So in the end, my mother got the latest gossip, my father acquired a new respect for the clergy, and I learned a very bad word -- all in exchange for a jar of plum preserves.  That was not a bad deal, not a bad one at all.

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


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