October 28, 2013

2013-10-27 Tanaks Peppers DSC03588

Grandma, I never knew you
Until today

After going to the farmer’s stand
Just twenty miles from where you’d lived
After buying, chopping and preparing
A pile of peppers
And after taking them home
Washing them and chopping them
After adding onions and garlic
And making a big pot of sauce
After cooking it all
And pouring it in jars
After washing up spoons and cutting boards
And pots and pans
After making myself a cup of tea
Then, and only then, did I
Notice the tingling in my hands

The hotness of the peppers
Had soaked in
And even dish after dish
In the soapy water
Didn’t wash it away

That’s when I met you

Your son, my dad
Used to tell me how he
As a small boy
Would bring ice to you
To comfort your burning hands
After preparing peppers

Just twenty miles from here
But eighty years ago
Were you, too,
Filled with awe
And gratitude
Seeing the peppers
Greens, oranges and red
Fresh from the fields

Knowing they would soon be finished
You worked to preserve them
To bring the spice and crunch
To your table
Long after autumn was gone

You did it year after year
Even though you knew
Your hands would sting
By the end of the day

Fingers warm and tingling
I drink my tea
As I wonder if I can fit in one more batch
Of hot peppers
Yet this year

Fingers warm and tingling
It’s so nice to meet you

About the poem:
My dad grew up on a farm in Frederick, Colorado. I now live in Niwot and today we stopped at the Tanaka farm stand in south Longmont. I wonder if they grew the peppers themselves or bought them, and were they hungry, and worried about making it through the winter. Well, I’m glad they did survive! My refrigerator and freezer are full of sauce, and my fingers are warm and tingling as I type. And I feel lucky, indeed, and happy to have a connection to the grandma I never knew.

About the Author joangregerson

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