Boundaries in the Bark of Beyond

Yesterday the Christmas season kicked off in my little town with the Holiday Boutique. I don’t know the whole story behind it but I do know a little. Some sisters and cousins got together 17 years ago and decided to hold a holiday craft boutique. They set high standards and were very exclusive in who they invited to join the core group. One of the non-family members is my friend Elizabeth.

It opened at 4 pm. I was there at 4:15, and it was packed. People kept coming. The boutique is held at the Church of Christ, in the church hall, a smallish room for such a major event. The boutique is one of the lovely things about living in a small town.

I had two things in mind — first and foremost, Elizabeth’s hand knit socks. They are the best socks, especially for walking in winter. They’re lightweight and warm. Over this past year, Elizabeth has made — knit! — beautiful animals. I love them. She knits them and their little outfits. I want all of them, but that would be silly. My favorite is the little mouse in the middle. When Elizabeth showed her to me a few months ago, I didn’t want to let go. I hope they find good homes.

One thing I always buy at the boutique is chokecherry jelly. I stood in front of the display, mildly dismayed that all the jars were so large and, frankly, pricey. I contemplated whether I’d eat a whole pint of jelly in a year (the jury is out on that). A tall woman came up and I recognized her as the maker of jelly, a very excellent saleswoman, too. So…here is life here.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m looking at the chokecherry jelly. I love it. I buy it every year.”

“Ah. This might be the last time. My chokecherry picker went to God this year.” She had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I know when they go to God they usually stay there.”

“I didn’t think I’d have chokecherries this year but someone showed up at my door with a bucket of chokecherries. ‘Here, Tia, for your jelly.'”

At that point I had tears in my eyes.

Until I started writing, I didn’t doubt the truth of her story. But now? I hate that. I want to be the completely gullible person I’ve always been. I don’t want skepticism to enter into my life at this late date. Wow. That was uncomfortable. BUT she talked me into another jar of jelly. Cherry.

People will tell you their entire life story just like that. I love it. It’s one of the great things about living here. But, chokecherries…

No one has asked me my chokecherry story, but I have one. These bushes grow wild all over America, different strains of the same basic plant. Here they are growing in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County.

One of the best moments I remember with my mom was over an Independence Day weekend in 1980 when I went up to Montana. She didn’t live there yet; she was visiting her sisters and staying with my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. They had a “summer home,” a mobile home at Fort Smith which is at the north end of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, known familiarly as Bighorn Reservoir. Along with a few mobile homes in this little community were Crow Indian tee-pees. The Crow have fishing rights on the Bighorn where the river goes into the reservoir, very prime fishing.

One afternoon mom, my aunt and I took off to pick chokecherries and buffalo berries along the river. We had so much fun. So, to me, chokecherry jelly is THAT afternoon. That evening, my mom’s attitude toward life and me went a little sideways (thanks alcohol) but even that turned out OK. Hearing the changed tone in my mom’s voice, my Aunt Jo, who was sitting on the deck with a cold drink, looking at the brilliant sky, called into the house. THAT is the featured photo, another relic from an old journal.

I guess I can eat a pint of chokecherry jelly in a year.

18 thoughts on “Boundaries in the Bark of Beyond

  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite ‘Little Rascal’ episodes: ‘It might have choked Artie, but it ain’t gonna’ choke Stymie.’

  2. The Chokecherry jelly looks beautiful!! Perfect for English muffins at a tea party! I hope you had enough money for a couple pairs of the knitted socks – I have one pair that I got as a gift many years ago. I’ve nearly worn them through. Now I only wear them when I’ve got a specific pair of boots on – because it just feels right…

  3. Tons of chokecherries here, at the edges of my yard and in the woods across the road. Too bad I’m too lazy to make jelly. But like you, I rarely eat any, maybe on toast once in a great while. Conall started eating some of the fruit that fell into the yard from a chokecherry tree just beyond the fence. I googled them and learned the pits are toxic, so I trimmed back that tree’s fruit real quick!

    I’m betting the combo of Elizabeth’s socks and your new shoes will make for some fine winter walking in the snow. (Yes, I’m also betting you’ll get snow this winter.)

  4. I buy local jellies when we’re out on our trips. This last time was actually a jam, but it was blackberry – my fav. I don’t worry about what I’m going to put it on – I just get out a spoon ; ) I confess that habit started when my Altar Guild director started giving me her Grand Mariner Cranberry sauce during the holidays… (MY precioussss, all MINE). I’ll have to look for Chokecherry next time we’re up west.

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