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done. Of the seventeen glass jars, three failed to seal. I placed them in the refrigerator, wondering what had been different about those three in particular. What had caused them to fail.

Chris stood by the stove putting leftovers into Tupperware. It was early December, and the leaded panes of the storm window behind him along with the early descent of night obscured the view of the yard. I sat silent at the table. Our dream of an Alaskan canoe trip, one we had actually started planning, had just been snuffed over a dinner out of a box. We were rushing to eat before a holiday party, and the words had come out of his mouth with a strong dose of disbelief, like I was crazy for thinking it could still happen: “There’s no way we’re going on a canoe trip this summer. Not with the basement renovation.”

He snapped the lid on the Tupperware and put it into the fridge. “This is life. A house and a mortgage. We can’t do it all.” I knew what he really meant. I had heard his implication the week before, from Chris and the thera- pist, at our final counseling session: It was time to grow up. To be content with what I had. His logic was sound. A simple repair job had turned the basement into a major renovation. But we had never talked about it as an either/or, and I had thought the basement could wait. I had inhaled sharply when the words flew out of his mouth, ready to argue. But then I thought of all the times I’d heard ‘next summer’ or ‘it just isn’t good timing,’ how we kept putting off all the dreams that mattered most to me. I knew with a sharp and painful certainty that it would always be this way. I could argue and push for this dream, but only if I was ready to keep doing it, every year, for every dream after that. We would always be waiting, he and I. Like I had waited for him to want to come home during the summer and he now waited for me to be content. We would always be waiting to want the same thing.

It is January now. I go from work to my parents and their kitchen. I think of the tomatoes collecting dust in their cupboard and of Chris living in a house too big for one person; I hope he is taking the time to eat. I mourn the loss of those January dinners, just as I mourn the loss of my tomatoes. My parents have asked: “Why don’t you bring them here? Cook with them in our kitchen?” And I could. Instead of wondering if the future will include a place for canning, instead of debating whether preserving tomatoes is worth the effort for a pot of soup for one, I could uncoil the thread to my parents. And maybe bringing those tomatoes out of the cupboard would remind me of summer and the renewal that comes to those who have the patience to see the long winter through. But to go back to the house that stopped feeling like mine the moment I left, to pull down the jars and pack them in a box… it would give me no delight. I would not think of one last stroll through the market. I would stand on a stool, hold a jar absentmindedly over the refrigerator and look out the kitchen window at the snow-covered yard. I would remember my husband clearing the garden while I covered the windows in steam, and I would marvel at how decisively the threads between us had broken.

Sometimes, the process of preserving does not work. Sometimes, the seals don’t form.


Winter/Spring 2012

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