There is never a time limit for repaying a kindness by paying it forward. Today was that day.
A lifetime ago, a thousand years ago, 1989 or just yesterday, depending on my frame of mind, a neighbor friend of our family gifted us something so simple, so special that I have never forgotten it. And here is the story…….
My Dad’s passion was farming. Raising food for his family so they would never be without as he was growing up. He raised every fruit and vegetable imaginable on our 3- 1/2 acres. As his COPD progressed, it became increasingly harder for him to manage his large garden, but he never gave up. My Mom, a true offspring of the Great Depression, did not know how to waste …any…thing. What Dad grew, Mom canned. It never occurred to her to buy canned tomatoes. Unheard of in her world.
In 1989, Dad managed to plant and grow his tomatoes but by harvest time, he was well beyond capable of gathering. Mom was overwhelmed with caring for their large home, yard, garden and most importantly, Dad. But those tomatoes loomed large and were a bother to my mother who could not fathom not harvesting or canning tomatoes. And I? I could not add one more thing to my plate with work, 2 wee ones and my own set of “stuff.” I was there to help every other weekend as I worked the opposite weekend.
And then………one day while I was at home with Mom and Dad, our neighbor Helen Nocek came over for a short visit. Sitting in the living room, Helen said ” Clare, I’ll can your tomatoes for you.” That simple, but I have never forgotten it. On the surface it seems like a simple gesture. I mean, how hard is it to can Tomatoes? Let me tell you sister, it is a ton of work! August was a boiling hot month. Back in the day there was no air conditioning much less Central Air. Kitchens were hot, humid and wives were hot, humid and sweaty. After canning all those tomatoes, they still had to cook dinner, do the dishes and clean up the kitchen. You couldn’t pay someone to do that work today! So Helen picked the tomatoes, washed and scaled the canning jars, blanched and peeled the tomatoes. Packed them into quart jars, set them into the canner and let them cook. She repeated that process until they were all gone. I did this year after year after year with my Mom, so I know……………………….
Thank you Helen. I have never forgotten your kindness. I wish I would have told her in her living years.
Our friend and neighbor, Mike canned Peaches and Pears from our little Orchard every year. Mike helped us in uncountable ways when we moved here. He was a wonderful man who worked tirelessly for his family. Mike died the first of June, but before he passed, I promised him I would make sure his wife and son had all the peaches and pears they needed to get them over the winter. Today, I canned 20 Pints of Peaches and took them up the road.
Thank you Helen. Today, almost 30 years later,I finally paid it forward.