by Max Christian Hansen
On my last drive cross-countryI stopped and stayed with my grandparents in their house on the lake. A pond, really, and, now my memory’s jogged, it wasn’t my last trip at all, but only the last one when they lived in that house.They call it a lake, though I can toss a stone across it without much strain.The house, now, that was really a house, though it was scarcely bigger than the tiny apartment they moved to next.It had a basement—that was part of what made it a house. Dug below the level of the lake, it had a sempiternal smell of wet, a touch of mold in it. And yet down there they kept a bedroom of sorts, plain and dark, for guests like me. You reached it through a little passage lined with shelves, and here there were some jars of the preserves she, Grandma, was still making that year. Oh, she would make a few in those few years after, just as she still made pies for market, sold them to tourists like me from California and maybe some odder places, but it was Grandpa reallywho made them, while she sat and guided his every move with Add some pectin andBit more sugar andCut it fine andLandsakes andGossip about the crones they knew.I went to bed in that dark, that damp, and dreamedof a barn, a big, a cathedral-big barn, done up for a feast. and in it broad high windows, and there was me on a ladder in one of them, fitting with jars of preserves a stained-glass monument to her, to her who was sliding toward that day our feast would be her farewell. I left two windows open full, and filled with jars one only, in the middle. And now, if there was anything represented in my picture, I don’t remember it, and maybe didn’t even that morning when I woke. Did I draw birds, or saints, or was I, as I now believe,so rapt and captured by the colors flooding though the fruited panethat I joyed in color alone, and made a crazy quilt?It doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter how my own motherin Grandma’s last years let flow some bit of bitterness, a touch of piqueat the old woman, about, as she let on,Grandma’s increasing old-age cussedness, but I knew better, heardthe echoes of some early years of chill and dark and barnsnot bursting nor larders nor lives as full as they might have been.When Mom complains I never ask what happened or didn’t in those early years. But I see Grandpa, patient as all eternity, cutting away each seed or bit of hull,each thing that would mar the flavor or lessen the burst and pop of color when you held the jar to the light. Only it matters that Mom knew there were flaws in the old woman I revered. So there are flaws in me, nor any needto lie about them, only to hope that, just as I cut and toss away each bit of darkmy mother spread on my times, I may yet,through someone’s patience benot a saint, but lightsome,preserved for you.