I put up corn yesterday.
Do any of you even know what it means, when I say "I put up corn" ?? Maybe you do, if you've been reading your kids the Little House on the Prairie series this summer.
It was me, my mom, and SIX DOZEN EARS OF CORN, fresh from the farmers market, in the kitchen yesterday. 95 degrees outside, two huge pots of boiling water inside, and two women never more glad of the decision to install air conditioning in the Great Money Pit Renovations of '05.
We shucked - and shucked some more. (No child labor laws were broken.) Filled a whole laundry basket with uncooked corn cobs. Dropped corn in boiling water - no longer than 3 minutes, per the matriarch! - and then plunked unceremoniously into an icy bath in the sink. I was in charge of separating millions of kernels from cobs - spraying corn juice and stray niblets all over the kitchen.
Maybe it felt a little throwback. Maybe it felt a little excessive, bagging and freezing 72 cobs' worth of corn for the winter months when you can buy a tidy little pound bag of frozen corn at Trader Joes. (Ooh! Another trip to TJs? I'll go! I'll go!)
But I'll tell you. What felt exactly right was standing in the kitchen with my mother, slicing kernels in the same way, with the same knives, that my grandmothers did. I listened to my mother's stories of canning and freezing with her mother, her mother in law - my grandmothers. I heard tales of my great-grandma that were entirely new to me (imagine your mother chaperoning you through college! Out of state! For four years!)
What felt exactly right was taking my place in the rhythm of things. Repeating the patterns, traditions and activities of generations before me, and living lessons for at least one generation after me. This, this is how we preserve the fabric of history. We remember what has gone before. We value what has gone before. We re-live what has gone before, even as we learn - daily - all of the lessons required of us in this brave new world.
As wise old Solomon told us, there truly is nothing new under the sun. And the sooner we learn to celebrate that, the wiser we all will be.