Jars of Daybreak

By Robert Erle Barham

November 30, 2020

Jars of Daybreak

Roused before dawn, my siblings and I stood at the edge of the kitchen and marveled at gleaming red jars that filled the room. Our parents shuffled wordlessly from stove to kitchen table and back again, their bright faces like blacksmiths’ flushed by forge light, and we stared in wonder as they stirred, poured, and sealed. My mother’s cheeks looked sunburned, the cost of tending a molten mixture that was eager to scald and scold distraction. That spring, trees on our farm had overflowed with Mayhaws, and the surplus was a kind of obligation. So when storms threatened a newly planted cotton crop and kept our parents from sleep, they worked through the night, turning fruit into hot liquefaction while we slept. Afterwards, we had Mayhaw jelly at every meal. Everything was sweetened by the spoonful, and every visitor left with a jar. From spring to fall, our supply lasted, and the containers kept their glow. Even after the crops were in and the days short and cold, there was jar upon jar of rosy incandescence. Here I am, middle-aged and far from that place of quiet toil, where crops were lost or spared and fruit trees could fill the pantry, and still I remember the soft, sweet taste. It always savored of daybreak.


Robert Erle Barham teaches English at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and he lives with his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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