I have tested every blackberry jelly sold in stores and I have never found one that comes close to the jelly my grandmother used to make. It had the perfect combination of tartness that caused your jaw muscles to contract and intense sweetness that would rescue those muscles just before they became too uncomfortable. One year, the quest for that seasonal treat in my childhood led to a find much sweeter than any jelly.
The summer before I went into the sixth grade I noticed the berries were getting pretty ripe. I ran to grandma’s house to let her know the berries were coming in nicely and how I bet this was going to be a good year for jelly.
If she said anything, I didn’t hear it. She had bent under the sink and I heard her digging that pan out. That pan is the pan that comes out when someone is going to have to go to the garden – and it held at least 40 gallons. Any twelve year old that hears that sound would know to run the other direction, but I was trapped. She sent me down to the bushes to fill the pan with blackberries
I had been out there for what had to have been hours and the bottom of my pan was barely covered.
The briars that berries grow on seem to scratch me no matter what I tried to avoid it.
My hands were sticky from broken berries and burning from the scratches.
Then, a most joyous site! Grandma was coming out to rescue me! In a matter of minutes, the pan was full enough for her and she invited me back up to have something to drink. On the walk up I asked her how long I had been out there and she thought maybe a little more than a half an hour.
The answer to the next question became part of the fabric of my life. “Why does it have to be so hard to get the blackberries?” With a soft laugh she replied, “So you’ll remember to be thankful for them.”
I’m sure I didn’t have a lot of use for that answer as a sixth grader. The first time I read and understood James 1:2-4 and even Romans 5:3-5, I went back to that day, though. I’m sure Grandma would be proud to know she was first to introduce me to the idea that life’s challenges happen for our benefit just like these passages teach us.
I am sure too, that the jelly was the best ever that year.