I have always, and I mean ALWAYS loved a good dill pickle. Even when I was a kid, my friends' moms would give me pickles by the gallon with a ribbon on top for my birthday.
Chrishel knew this, and a few years ago, she raided her grandmother's food storage and found the holy grail of delight: homemade, canned dill pickles! She brought me every last 10-year old jar. And not only did I eat every soft, salty pickle, but I drank every. last. drop. of. pickle. juice. Bottoms up!
Fast forward to the Fall of 2012... Tim was up here doing some work on the house and she asked me to send him home with a dozen quart jars because for my upcoming birthday, she was going to bottle her grandmother's homemade dill pickles for me.
And she did. She came up later that month and proudly delivered them to me. I gave her the biggest hug. We used to joke that she was like my drug supplier.
She told me to let them sit until Christmas time, and then they would be ready to eat.
I opened my first jar during the holidays and savored my birthday present.
And ever since she died on January 16, I go down to my basement and see my 11 unopened quart jars of lovingly pickled cucumbers. And it is painful. Because I want to eat them, but I simply cannot. I start to feel guilty. And sad. Because what happens if I start eating and then get down to the last jar?
The pickles are the only thing I have of hers that are handmade. I have jewelry she gave me from Ruby's Inn for my birthday, but her canning... she loved to garden and to can. At her viewing, on one of the display tables in the church, her family had put symbols of all of her hobbies and talents... her gardening spade still grimy with last fall's hardened soil, her well worn hiking Keens, and a few jars of her beautifully canned fruits and vegetables. (She was the one who taught me how to can applesauce.)
So last night, I was craving one of her pickles. (I have been a pickle snob my entire life, and I can unabashedly say that hers are THE BEST I have ever tasted. Ever. Maybe it's that red jalapeño pepper she adds with the garlic...)
I went down to the basement and gingerly took a bottle of the pickles and brought it upstairs to the kitchen. The house was quiet. Everyone else was fast asleep. And like a drunk, I sat in the dark at my kitchen table and ate pickle after delicious pickle as I stroked the smooth glass bottle. I tried to imagine her with her hair pulled back, lovingly packing those cucumber spears into the sterile bottles.
Today I told my husband that I had made progress and opened a jar. But tears started to spill onto my cheeks as I described what I was feeling.
"Am I going crazy? Over some damn pickles?! Why am I so sentimental over this?"
He quietly smiled and wiped my stray tears and replied, "Maybe you should go see the counselor again, honey."
But then I mentioned how Julie soothingly told me recently, "She would want you to eat her pickles and enjoy every last drop. She wouldn't want you to keep a shrine of those for her. Enjoy them, and remember her."
He said, "I'm glad you have Julie."
Tonight before our couples prayer, I shared one small spear with the Mister. He savored it. He smiled in appreciation.
Maybe, just maybe, things will get a little easier.