Attention, Citizens: I made jam.
Because that’s what you do, when you have three buckets of fresh-picked strawberries and no way to transport them from Georgia to Texas: you learn to make jam. You spend a good 45 minutes tromping through Wal-Mart in search of a substitute for a canning rack, and you invest in jars and a $6 canning tools set, and you heat up the jars and make jam.
But, if you’re a blogger, you also think about how to document it. This would be great for Pinterest. It’s too bad all you have is a crummy camera phone, but perhaps if we angle the lens just so, the picture will be suitably Pinnable.
And then there’s the question of whether this third in a series of “I accomplished something!” posts is really a little bit disingenuous, given how very many things go unaccomplished each day. Maybe the narrative should be framed in terms of “despite my ineptitude, I didn’t spread botulism!” instead of “hey, look! I made something!” There’s already a substantial segment of the population whose initial reaction will be “why didn’t you just buy jam while you were at Wal-Mart?”
I had an article saved in my “Drafts” folder for months – one of countless opinion pieces on the rise of the DIY movement, with a whole cottage industry of industrious cottage-dwellers sewing curtains from pillowcases, making headboards from cabinet doors, and solving organizational problems with Mason jars. I can’t find the article now, but you get the drift. Now we can’t just have chocolate frosted cupcakes for the class; we need to have themed cake pop bouquets. We can’t buy peasant skirts off the rack; we have to make them from scraps like peasants do. It’s all about being more authentic.
Which is how I end up full of malaise on a sunny afternoon in a strawberry field, wondering if I could be accused of:
- play-acting the part of the migrant workers who harvest the fruit for my jam the other 364 days of the year
- taking jobs from American workers by paying money for the privilege of picking my own strawberries
- going to great lengths to capture an authentic food experience when the more authentic representation of my life is the buying of rotisserie chickens and Del Monte green beans on sale
- elevating domestic tasks to a sacramental level by fetishizing them via the creation of virtual shrines to my own self-abasement as home-maker, a term coined by the patriarchy to distract me from the true value of my labor (I would have made a terrific grad student.)
See, now, the value of blogging? It opens the mind to every possible overanalysis of the simplest of actions.
I love this blog, really I do. I can never manage to keep a diary – it just turns into this churning burble of emotion that leaves me thinking, “WOMAN. Get ahold of yourself.” But I love being able to come back to events from my life years ago that I’d forgotten all about and relive them for a moment. I have a maudlin obsession with the passage of time that causes me to become wistful with every photo I snap.
I suppose my overall point is: if ever I find myself documenting an activity – or, worse, participating in an activity – just for the blog of it? That is the day I will quit.
(Yes, I realize this is a strange post from a person who just said “COME LISTEN TO ME TALK ABOUT HOW TO SHARE YOUR BLOG CONTENT WITH THE WORLD!“)
Arwen Mosher wrote a reflection on choosing the tasks that bring you joy that has really stayed with me:
Here’s how I see it now: we all have the same basic responsibility to provide for our families and to care for them. Feeding them, clothing them, keeping them safe, and giving them the love and attention they deserve are non-negotiables. Everything else is extra.
In a perfect world, I’d be able to do everything. In five minutes I could make a list of fifty tasks I’d like to conquer regularly, and that would barely scratch the surface. But my resources are finite, so I have to choose.
So choose I do: to bake the bread, to tidy the toys, to manage a few other “extras” which are important to me.
No sane mother of many little ones would bake her own bread. But this one loves getting her hands in that dough, loves seeing her children’s glee when she gives them warm buttered slices, loves watching her husband perk up when he walks in the door and spots a fresh loaf on the counter.
Bread is my soul-soothing extra. What’s yours?
And that’s how I feel about my little pint jars of jam, or the massive sewing projects I take on every couple of years – they’re “extra,” but they bring me joy. My problem is probably that I tend to ignore the nuts and bolts of everyday homemaking in favor of the larger construction projects that make me happy. Which is why I’m currently smitten with Pinterest.
But if it becomes about Keeping Up with the Jonses, handmade-whatsit-wise, then that brings nobody joy. If I’m shooing away my children from the mixer so I can make the PERFECT lemon banana chicory brownie pinwheels, it would be better to slice up some premade cookie dough and call it a day.
So – what do you like to make by hand, even if you could just buy it cheaper at Wal-Mart? Possible answers include “dinner reservations.”