Grandma had a special recipe for Christmas preserves.
"Millie," Grandma said, "go into the pantry and get me a jar of the blackberry preserves. They're on the top shelf, just to the left."
"Sure, Mima," Millie said. Every summer, she spent the month of July with her grandmother. She loved visiting Grandma and helping her in the kitchen. And I love eating all the treats she always makes! Today they were making Blackberry Thumbprint Cookies.
Millie pulled the chain on the light and the bare bulb illuminated rows of mason jars all neatly labeled with contents and a date. "You sure do a lot of canning," she yelled.
"That's how you keep the specialness," Grandma said, wiping her hands of her apron. "Do you see them?" There was no response. "Millie?"
"Mima, someone's gotten into your pantry," Millie's concerned voice finally answered.
"What? No one goes in there."
"Come here. A lot of jars are empty. Maybe mice got them."
Grandma's laugh grew louder as she approached. "They're not empty, honey. They're full of memories."
"Memories? You can't bottle memories." Millie stared at her Grandma as she came into the small room.
"Oh yes we can. That's why we bake every time you come to visit. It's a family secret, one that I will teach you someday."
Millie looked over the row of empty jars. "New Years, 1967. Millie's Birthday, August 14, 2000. Mima – that has my name on it!"
"That was a very special day to me," she said, hugging her granddaughter.
Millie pulled back, staring at the softness in Grandma's eyes. "What's really in there?" she asked.
"Just like we concentrate the flavors of fruit when we make jam, there's a way to concentrate all the joy and happiness you feel on special days. We've learned to do that and keep it safe. On special occasions, we can open the jar and taste a little reminder of all that specialness or we can let it all out and relive all those feelings again."
"Will you teach me how? Now?"
"Not yet, sweetie. Just like you have to use ripe fruits, you also have to use strong emotions. You need to be just a little older. I promise, when it's time, I'll teach you."
"What do they taste like?" Millie asked, glancing through the jars and reading labels.
"Hmmm. That's a good question. I'll tell you what, why don't you pick one and let's see what you think."
"Really?" squealed Millie. She looked over the labels and finally chose on. "How about this one?"
Grandma looked at the writing. "Christmas, 2006," she read. "Let's see, you had just turned six. That might be a fun one to try. Okay, come into the kitchen and I'll get a spoon."
Millie giggled. "A spoon? There's nothing in there Mima."
"Oh you'll be surprised at what's in there," Grandma laughed and led them to the small table and chairs on the side of the room.
Sitting, Grandma began to twist the Ball lid open. "It's on pretty tight. That's what happens sometimes, especially as memories get older."
"Let me help," Millie said, grabbing the jar. The jar slipped from her grasp and they watched it fall to floor and shatter.
"Oh, Mima, I'm so sorry ..." Millie began when suddenly, she began to smile and then laugh as the happiness of Christmas swept over her.
Grandma smiled. "That's OK. 2006 was a very good year and I have several more in the pantry. So, what does it taste like?"
Millie thought for a moment. "I smell pine and Christmas dinner and taste peppermint and hot chocolate and I hear jingle bells," she said, her mouth dropping open. "It's just like ... magic!"
"Well, it is a kind of magic. Christmas is a magical time and it brings out the best in people."
"I'll get a broom and clean this up."
"We can pick up the glass but the contents will just have to wear off by themselves. They usually only last a day or two. I'll tell you what, you pick up the broken jar and I'll put some hot chocolate on," she laughed.
Over the next two days, the jar's contents slowly dissipated. People in the neighborhood began to smile at each other and exchange greetings. There was a feeling of general happiness – even joy – that slowly spread across the small town.
Millie and Mima sat on the front porch, sipping cocoa. The grumpy neighbor next door came out. "It's a beautiful evening, Mr. Wiggins," Millie said.
He looked up at the sunset. "You know, it's been years since I've taken the time to notice. But, you're right! It is a beautiful evening," he said with a smile.
"Well, Mr. Wiggins, my granddaughter and I were just enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and watching it. Why don't you join us?"
"Charles. Why don't you call me Charles. That sounds like fun." A confused look came over his face.
"Is there something, wrong?"
Charles laughed. "No, nothing at all. Old age, I guess. I almost said 'Merry Christmas' but this is July."
Mima and Millie just giggled.
An entry for "Kittiara's Writing Contest"
Word Count: 848