Ingenuity and Elbow Grease

by

“I’m in trouble,” my mother said on the phone a couple weeks ago.

Immediately, my heart rate kicked up.  I didn’t remember ever hearing her say that.  She’s always been the strong one, the one who figures out the answers and is there to help me through my troubles.  She enjoys solving problems and taking care of those around her. She never needs help.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I’ve over-booked my festivals,” she said with such a serious tone that I tried to stifle my laugh.

“Why are you laughing?” she asked.  “That’s our beach money on the line.  If I lose this show, we might not be able to go to the Outer Banks.”

OK, this was serious.  I didn’t want to risk our beach trip. “What do you need me to do?” I asked.

“Do you or the boys have plans for October 16th?  Can one of you go to Palmyra and handle the St. Peter and Paul Church bazaar?”

“Don’t worry, one of us will take care of it,” I said.

I could feel her blood pressure go down over the phone.  She sighed deeply. “Thank you baby, I know how hard you work and you have so little time to yourself. I hate to impose on you.”

This statement stopped me. I wondered how many times she has needed me and not asked. She’s older now. I forget that.

The church allowed her to come set up her display on Friday afternoon, so all I had to do was show up at eight o’clock Saturday morning, sit behind the table, sell her preserved fare, bag the jars and collect a five dollar bill for each one, easy work.

Person after person came through the door, stopped by Mama’s table and asked where she was. “Oh please tell her I missed seeing her. She’s such a sweet lady.  She works so hard on all this stuff she sells.”

“I don’t see how she possibly makes a dime when you consider the cost of sugar and jars these days, not to mention her time.”

“What does she put in her Chow-Chow?”

“Oh my goodness, I haven’t seen End of the Garden Pickle since my Grandma made it.”

“Can you double bag. I want six jars.  I’ll probably send my husband back for more.  I have to go home and see exactly what I need for Thanksgiving.”

“How’s your step-father? I know your Mother’s been so worried about his health. She carries a big load on her shoulders.”

For six hours I not only sold items, but gained a new perspective on the impact my mother has on the lives of other people, people I don’t even know. 

“How did you do?” she asked me late last night on the phone.

“Pretty good I think,” I said.  “I sold one hundred and one jars.”

“You did do well for St. Peter and Paul’s,” she said.  “Let’s see, that’s five hundred and five dollars added to the nine hundred and sixty I made at Flippin Seaman’s Orchard for a grand total of, hold on let me get my calculator.  We did good baby, fourteen hundred and sixty-five dollars.”

“You did the work, Mama.  All I did was wrap, sell and smile like you taught me,” I said laughing.

“We’d have five hundred and five dollars less if you hadn’t come through for me though,” she said

“Outer Banks, here we come.” I said.

“Amazing what a few vegetables, strawberries, peaches, plums, sugar and elbow grease will get you,” she said.

“Ingenuity and elbow grease,” I said. “That should be your motto.”

“It’s helped us get to the beach every year,” she said.

It’s also taught me how to make my way in the world, I thought, as I told her I loved her and hung up the phone.

Some of Mama’s preserves
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One Response to “Ingenuity and Elbow Grease”

  1. Khakjaan Wessington Says:

    Sorry I haven’t checked in in a while; this was solid creative non-fiction. Good job.

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