One of these days—when our kids aren’t pulling us in so many directions—I will have an amazing vegetable garden. When the month of May isn’t so “May-I-please-sit-down-for-a-minute?!” I will find the time to really get in there and get my hands dirty. My garden will have enviably rich soil in the most perfect location to receive optimal sunlight. I will water and care for my plants, nurturing them into adulthood as I examine their leaves for signs of sickness or insect invasion. They will grow beautifully and reward us with an abundance of tomatoes and beans and melons and cucumbers.
Until then, I will reminisce about the summers of my childhood. I will remember the distinct smell of freshly watered plants and the taste of a sun-warmed cherry tomato plucked and wiped on my shorts before popping it in my mouth.
I will remember the days of late summer when my grandmother and my mother canned green beans in the kitchen, their faces red from the steam. The hard work of having a vegetable garden continued throughout the summer. Preserving the abundance from the garden was unquestionable, every piece should be eaten—either by us or our neighbors, either now or later.
The shelves in the laundry room were lined with Mason jars filled to the top with summer’s bounty. The deep freezer held jars of strawberry jam and sliced peaches. Everything not eaten right away was preserved for later. By February, when the last jar of strawberry jam was scraped clean, we began to dream of visiting the U-Pick strawberry field so that we could replenish our supply.
Preserving the sweetness of summer doesn’t have to involve giant pots of boiling water and steamy glass jars. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of sunshine-y June and July in the dreary winter months of January and February? Try this: Keep a summer journal or write down what summer was like when you were a kid. Take pictures and make a photo album (not just the Facebook kind, a real one that you can hold in your hands) so that you can relive the best moments of this season. When it’s below freezing outside and the sky is filled with gray clouds, you’ll be glad you did.