Girl Jam

No matter where a person grows up, there are always going to be associations with the summertime of his or her youth that becomes a tradition as an adult. The events may be unintentional, but earmark the season every year.
One of mine is picking raspberries, as well as for many others who grew up in the Black Hills. I remember summer days riding along with my mom to secret raspberry patches with family friends or neighbors to pick ripened berries. Our backs would stiffen from staying bent over for long stretches of time to reach berries on the undersides of low-lying canes. A sliver of my lower back would get sunburned where my shirt and jeans gapped apart and had been exposed to the sun too long. The backs of everybody’s necks, temples and foreheads would dampen from the heat and sun beaming down on us in the high noon of the day, driving all the kids toward raspberry bushes in shady spots to pick.
Kids’ buckets would only have 1-2 layers of berries in them due to eating more than what was picked. The mothers visited over topics that overlapped into new subjects as they creeped along hillsides farther and farther away from their starting point without notice. Moms picked as frantically as possible to fill buckets before the kids started to complain about getting tired of picking, the heat, feeling hungry or bored; wearing the mothers down with guilt until they decided to stop picking.
Tuckered kids would nap on the drive to the home where the jelly would be made. While kids repeatedly went from inside to outside to play together, the women’s conversations unraveled continuously like a ball of yarn until empty jars were filled and gleamed with sparkling ruby colored jam flecked with seeds.
For several years I’ve intended to take my kids raspberry picking so as to establish their own memories of the summertime activity with family friends or neighbors and me but it never transpired until this summer. At the suggestion of the mother of my daughter’s friend to make some raspberry jelly, we agreed to meet in the afternoon on an August day when the berries were finally ready, and picked raspberries, told stories, and shared our thoughts on numerous topics.
I reveled in each step of the jelly making process from picking the berries to cooking and pouring the hot jam into jars until we had a box full of preserves to admire and remember later, come winter.
Once we were all finished, it was decided that the four of us would make it a tradition to make raspberry jam at least once every summer. We’re going to call it Girl Jam day.

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