Jessica Wiseman Lawrence
Garden Parties (2015)
Garden- an area of land cultivated by people in order to produce food or flowers.
Canning- involves a process of heat and airlocking to preserve food.
Glass- something that breaks if not handled carefully.
Blooming- depends on heat and time, much like canning.
Each garden he tilled became a brown rectangle, stark against the green grass. He placed stakes, tied tomato plants, planted seeds and watered. One day he turned over a five-gallon bucket. The metal handle pinged a clipped metallic, and then there was the hollow thunk of something with nothing inside of it against the earth. She lined up glass jars, then she stood at the stove like a scientist. The jar lids would suck in and sound like popcorn almost done. One day she went out to smoke while these noises fell like slow rain. She sat at a peeled-paint table near her rosebushes, by September done with blooming. The leaves and petals were thin dried skins, stretched over thorns and angles.
There are still sealed jars covered in dust. There is still rhubarb growing in a patch of saw grass. They will live forever.
In their thirties, my parents enjoyed keeping large gardens during the summer. They canned their own food. My step-father worked ten-hour days for CSX Transportation, then came home and worked in the garden until dark. My mother won first-place ribbons at the Virginia State Fair for three years in a row for her bread and butter pickle.
The other day, I saw an older woman with silver hair in my mother’s bathroom window and was surprised to realize it was her.
My stepfather showed me where he keeps a copy of his will the last time I visited them.
My mother no longer enters her canning into the State Fair’s competitions. They do not plan to plant this year.