A Jarring Truth

Grandma knows best

By Clyde Edgerton

A dad is at home, talking on his smartphone with his 13-year-old son, Grayson, who is across the state at Grandma’s for a week. This is Grayson’s second day.

“How’s it going?” asks Dad.

“Fine. Grandma is, ah, putting zucchinis in jars. She’s been at it all day.”

“You mean cucumbers. She’s making pickles. She does that every year. She’s ‘canning.’”

“No, Dad. It’s jars. Not cans.”

“You use jars for canning,” says Dad.

“Then why don’t they call it ‘jarring’?”

“Don’t know. Hadn’t thought about that. Have y’all been in the garden?”

“She has.”

“How about you?”

“I’ve been inside. It’s hot out there.”

“OK. But — “

“I told her I could look up some YouTube videos on gardening. She talked about her garden all morning. Her tomatoes and stuff.”

“It’s very important to her.”

“I found some videos on how to grow tomatoes and stuff, but she — ”

“Son, she’s been growing tomatoes for over 50 years.”

“Yeah, but like she’s never seen any YouTube videos on growing them. She didn’t even know what YouTube was, Dad.”

“I don’t think — ”

“I found a bunch of videos but she didn’t —”

“You should have gone out and helped her pick those cucumbers, Son. You should be helping her. Have you done anything this morning except stare into that phone?”

“Dad, I can learn everything she knows about growing tomatoes in about 15 minutes — with like, say, three five-minute videos. I found one that shows — ”

“Put up your phone and go help your grandma.”

“Da-ad.”

“Do it. And call me back in one hour, or you lose your phone for a half-day when you get back home.”

“A half-day!? “

“That’s right.”

“OK.”

One hour, four minutes later:

“OK, Dad, I helped her. You won’t believe it. I’m so glad Mother buys pickles already made.”

“Why?”

“For one thing, you have to have all this equipment — these tongs and jars and funnels. And before you get going, the cucumbers have to sit in this water that has all this vinegar and stuff in it for like 12 hours before you even do anything, and then she has to boil all this water and do all this crazy stuff with steaming rags and a hot stove, and then she has to wait another 24 hours for the cucumbers to sit there in jars full of hot water that cools off and while it’s cooling the jars pop which means they sealed. So the jars like sit for one day and one night. All that for some pickles that she could buy at the grocery store.”

“Let me speak to her.”

“OK.”

Grandma speaks. “Hello, Son.”

“Mom? How’s it going? Making some pickles, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t get much help from Grayson.”

“Hang on one second. I’m going to step out onto the back porch here . . . OK, he can’t hear me now. I’m going to be helping out Grayson after he goes to sleep tonight.”

“How’s that?”

“When he wakes up in the morning that tiny TV of his will be in the middle of a jar of cucumbers: all boiled, pickled, sealed and out of sight.”

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.

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