The family and friends of one of Jefferson’s own, Doris Clark, gathered on Sunday to enjoy a time of celebration in honor of her milestone birthday of 90 years. There were at least a dozen relatives down from Canada, I learned, and many friends from town who turned out for the special day. A school theme for the party brought smiles to the faces of all who attended, as Doris was a longtime teacher in local schools.
As I walked the beautiful lawns from the lovely Jago homestead where Doris grew up, over to the tent that family had set up for the party, I realized that I’d known Doris all my life. Being neighbors, our family and Doris and Calvin’s family were always in close touch. After the party, I walked back to my car with Arlene White and Connie Simmons, two of my mother’s friends for many years. Arlene told me she was a childhood friend to Doris. The two of them go back for decades, in other words.
It’s a rare thing these days that someone remains close to the home where they were born and raised. The ties to family and home and place run deep in a person’s soul when you’ve traveled the same path for so long, from your own kitchen door over the field to Grandmother’s house, shall we say.
I thought of Doris’ father, Bet Jago, and the wooden boxes of blueberries he used to rake and sell by the roadside summer upon summer. I remembered the mittens, hats, and scarves that Rose Jago, Doris’ mother, knit for schoolchildren year after year. It was a hot day, the day of the party, yet those childhood seasons — all those summers and winters — loomed in my mind’s eye.
More than this, I felt blessed to have known the Jago and Clark family — and how dear are the ties that bind. I could feel the presence of something great around me as I tread the path for home. It was a sense of that great cloud of witnesses that we Christians consider just there, having crossed over to be with our Creator before us.
Perry and I ordered a box of peaches from the Community Market up in Unity and drove up to get them a few days ago. The crate was waiting for us when we stepped up on the porch of the general store that the Amish folks have as a business. The peaches arrived perfect and delicious.
I spent time this past weekend making peach jam and enjoyed the process immensely. When the jars were all done, I stepped back and surveyed the tangible results. It came to me that my mother worked very hard for years and years canning and freezing the harvest from our garden. From sun up to sundown, she was either working in the garden, picking vegetables, preparing them for jars to can or for the freezer, or washing up the pots and pans that she used to complete the process.
My mother put her energy into ensuring we had plenty of food to get through the winter. None of this was without a great amount of energy. It started as a dream when the seed catalogs arrived by mail. The garden planning began. The seeds arrived and spring returned. The hope found in planting the garden was on the whole family’s mind. The cultivation ensued and it was time and labor; from the oldest to the youngest, we all did our share.
These times sweep over me – missing those hopes and dreams and the real results of growing one’s own food. For me, at this time in my life, the sense of the coming year is close at hand, I see. Time is not based on just the calendar, for I’m already planning how to plant more next year. I’m storing up the gifts of labor and the fruit of the vine. I’m remembering where I came from and who was beside me — who is still here hoping, guiding, and keeping the dream alive.
Those who are my witnesses understand, I believe, all the days – the good and the difficult – and they endure. In the midst of hopes and dreams, and yes, even tribulations, they find a way to get my attention. I have no doubt that my dear neighbor and friend Doris Clark knows all this I’ve written here, and more — for she knew my parents and loved the Flagg children as much as her own.
This kind of love is something the world does not give. It is heaven-sent – the spirit that abides and holds us safe no matter what happens. On this day, may you reach back, dear reader, to those who were gentle with you, who listened and cared, who knew what you were going through, and who taught you to do the same for the world around you.