Sunday, November 16, 2014
Bottled Fruit by Melissa Dalton Bradford
I don't read titles. While I inadvertently do when clicking links for newspaper articles online or selecting titles from the shelves at the library, I unconsciously (until three minutes ago) don't look at them. Maybe that comes from a sense of wanting to let the work speak for itself and trying to prevent the formulation of a pre-conceived opinion, or maybe it stems from overeagerness to start reading. Sometimes it's because I'm lazy! Whatever the reason in this poem, my title-blindness kept me from recognizing I was reading about canning until I hit the third stanza.
It's not that the author is not clear in her subject matter. On the contrary, her elegant, personifying descriptions clearly set the scene when I went back for a second and third reading. But canning, a prominent theme in Mormon home culture because of its ties to food storage, has always been a messy, old-fashioned practice in my mind. It stirs memories of lugging dusty Mason jars up the stairs from my grandparents' damp basement to a hole in their garden to dump expired peaches and pickles. They always made this terrible plopping, oozing noise when they met the earth and it didn't help that the hole started to resemble a fairground port-a-potty.
In "Fruit," however, canning becomes the vehicle for a beautiful ode to the author's mother. Her tone is inviting and nostalgic as she shows her mothers' deep love and desire to provide for her children (both in her life and after she passed on) through her willingness to sacrifice and prepare.
"Let us go then, you and I, to visit those cellars
of all my mothers and their mothers and mothers,
who considered shelf life over self life..."
Her mother would give up the luscious, tangy flesh of a summer peach fresh from the tree and preserve it to satisfy her need to provide. Perhaps one day her stores of fruit and vegetables will outlast her, allowing her to still nourish her children with a meal made by her hands though she has left mortality. The insurance of shelf life was more important to her than instant gratification for her self life, which is a theme that rings true in Mormon culture as well.
P.S. If anyone has time to read the second draft of my personal essay and share feedback on how I can improve it I would really appreciate the input.