Did you ever think how many "other lives" we all live? Wonder if that might be a good premise on which to base a new romance. Mmmm. Ah, well, back to the subject.
Last Friday my daughter came in carrying a bucket of cucumbers her husband had picked from his garden. "Did you really say you wanted to make pickles?" Her expression was a little doubtful, as I don't spend any more time in the kitchen than is absolutely necessary.
But my answer was a sound, "Yes. I love to make pickles." Even though it would mean taking time out from my busy writing schedule filled with promotional ideas, writing new books, editing old books. Sure, why not?
I discovered something years ago, and that was other chores often foster brand new stories. Something never thought of. After all, how much concentration does making a batch of pickles take? Chopping the fragrant veggie into chunks leaves the mind free to wander. How crisp and green, and the aroma, both of the fresh vegetable and the one that eventually cooks in vinegar and sugar and spices. All lend impetus to our imaginations.
I've been asked to write something about my mother's experiences as "Rosie the Riveter" at Boeing during WW II, for an anthology. Because I hadn't thought of those days in a long while I'm not sure where to begin. I was very young, but I do remember that the one big change was my mother began to wear pants. I'd never seen her in pants until she went to work at that defense plant. And she tied a bandana around her gorgeous red curls before leaving for work.
"That's to keep from getting my hair caught in a drill," she explained.
We lived, at the time, in a housing development for the plant. Dad was serving in the South Pacific on a flat top named the USS Attu, and it was just Mom, my brother Fred and I. A neighbor looked after us while she was at work and we weren't at school.
What could I write about that? My mother had always been a stay at home Mom, though we didn't call it that back then. She was a wife and mother. She loved to cook and garden and can and sew. She made pickles, too, just as I was doing. That's why the smell of them cooking brought her back to me so sharply. Every detail. Her smile, the red, red lipstick she always wore, the freckles on her pale skin, and most of all that tumble of red hair.
Landing that job gave us the income we sorely needed while Dad was away at war, but it also changed her. She went from a farm wife to a working woman almost overnight. Gone was pickle making, canning, gardening, and all that went with it. So, my experience making pickles gave me the opening I wanted for my story.
In later years, Mom went back to doing all those things she loved so much. And she quilted and crocheted and went to work selling Avon after the war. I suspect that every jar of pickles I open this winter will be another reminder of Mom and how she became someone different out of necessity, yet kept in sight the things she most loved to do.