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James R. Stout

The Juicer

            It seems that our parents always seem old to us. When I was 5-years-old I thought my mother was ancient. She was only 31. Thinking of them as children was always a chore. Even with photos of them as a child they seemed old given the aged photographs that were usually black and white. They would be wearing clothes that looked old to us. But make no mistake, they were young and vibrant once too. This fact comes home to us as we age. I’m sure I have always seemed old to my kids. Faded old Polaroid photos only help to foster that feeling for my kids and especially for my grandkids.

            My mother grew-up during the depression and World War Two. They lived life on a farm and while they never had to stand in a bread line or lost their home to a bank, they did have to get by on very little and most of what they had was homemade. Almost all of their clothes were made by my grandmother as well as quilts, blankets, and pillows. Grandma canned fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves. They had a smokehouse behind the house that they used to cure ham and beef from animals that they raised. There were a few things though that they had to purchase or barter for. My mother used to speak longingly about something that she remembered with great fondness from those years in the 1930’s. She was always excited when they would buy big bags of flour, boxes of cereal (a great treat), and powdered soap in burlap bags. Why? Because each bag or box would contain a “free” piece of what we have come to know as “Depression Glass”. My grandmother collected the pieces and used them for the purposes they were meant to use. They weren’t some keepsake in a curio cabinet. They actually used those glasses, cups, saucers, and other dishes. She remembered grandma’s favorite was a set in blue. It became my mother’s favorite as well, but she also remembered some special pieces that they had that were in other colors.

            Near my mother’s 53 birthday back in early September of 1982 she went with me and my wife to a recently opened indoor flea market/arts & crafts market in the little town of Waller, Texas. It was a Saturday afternoon and we spent a couple of hours in that market before going out to dinner. While perusing the goods on display my mother saw a booth with a great deal of depression glass for sale. She expressed ooh’s and ahh’s over the glass. She was remembering those golden days of her childhood and how much that depression glass had meant to her. My grandmother was still alive and had a few pieces from the old days, but much of it had been broken over the years as would be common in most households. There was one particular piece that she picked-up and held lovingly. Her eyes had a distant mist in them as she told me that they had owned one exactly like it. It wasn’t the blue glass, but it was a highly prized piece. It was an emerald green juicer. It was in excellent condition. Mom told us how excited she was when they got the piece in a 50-pound bag of flour. I remembered the juicer from my childhood, but by then it was well used and had a chip in it from being dropped. It was lost in the sands of time sometime in the 60’s or early 70’s. My grandmother most likely threw it away when she moved from the farm after my grandfather passed away. We never really knew.

            Mom turned that juicer upside down and looked at the price tag on the underside. She let out a sigh and said, “I just can’t justify paying that much money for something that we won’t actually use. She put the juicer back on the table and moved on. Well, I whispered in my wife’s ear to distract Mom on the other end of the market. I gladly paid the $25 for the juicer, had it wrapped in paper and bagged and went out and put it in the trunk of our car. It would be my mother’s birthday gift.

            The next weekend we got together at my parent’s house for our annual birthday jamboree! We called it that because so many of us had birthday’s right close together. My wife’s was September 6, Grandma’s was the 8th, mine is the 9th, my cousin’s is the 11th, my aunt’s was the 12th, and mother’s was the 14th. Yes, 6 of us had birthdays in 8 days! We always had one big cake and a little get together after going out to eat somewhere. I gave Mom a box with the juicer packed inside and waited for her reaction. She opened the box and just about started to cry. There was that green juicer just like the one she grew-up using for orange juice and Grandma’s homemade lemonade.

            For the rest of my mother’s life, another nearly 36 years, she had that juicer on display in a china cabinet in the dining room of their house. When she passed away, I ended-up getting that juicer. It’s a reminder to me of my Mom, my Grandmother, and so many happy memories. That juicer also reminds me that simple things bring the sweetest memories. I can still imagine my mother’s 8-year-old face lighting up with delight when they pulled that juicer out of the flour bag. It was free, but it became priceless. Such are the many things we sometimes take for granted until one day we look upon them and it’s like looking into a magic mirror that shows us golden moments from our younger days. Much of my household treasures are from days gone by. The old trunk that came from Alabama by covered wagon, a box full of tin-type photos of my ancestors, my grandfather’s last pocket watch, about 20 quilts that my grandmother made, the cedar chifforobe that was my grandfather’s “closet”, pictures and letters and even a journal of my grandfather’s from 1944. Then there are the things from my childhood. I have the original 1961 aluminum Christmas tree with the working color wheel. My cub scout uniform, the receipt from Katy Road Chrysler Plymouth for my first car, a ribbon from my high school sweetheart’s hair, and I could go on and on. When we are young, we tend to always be looking to the future. That’s as it should be. We should never live in the past. However, we should never take our past for granted and discard it’s memory. While it is true that the rearview mirror in a car is small while the windshield is large, it is also true that if we don’t look back while plowing the fields of life, then the rows will not be straight, and we may jeopardize our future. We should learn over time to discard hurt feelings and wrongs we have been done, but never discard the people because one day they will be gone. Remember the six of us who had birthdays close together? Only my cousin and I are left. Well, truth be told my ex-wife is still alive, but she is not part of my life. Hold onto your loved ones and enjoy them while you can because one day, you’ll only have keepsakes that were theirs to hold instead of them. Oh, and here's that juicer.

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