About a week ago someone left a package on my porch. this being zucchini season, I was just a little bit leery, but it wasn't squash this time, but it was a half-dozen ears of fresh sweet corn.
Guess what dinner was...
Later, as I was shucking the corn, I commented that I hate shucking corn, then stopped to think why I hate shucking corn. Suddenly, with all the clarity and impact of an Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph, I remembered the catalyst for my dread of corn silk and husk. I don't remember how old I was at the time, maybe eight or ten years old, but my mother and her best friend Barbara Cartwright had decided that they were going to can corn to preserve it for later use. That was back in the day when most households preserved fruit and vegetables to save money and add variety to the diet during the winter months.
Mom and Barbara bought a load of corn. In my mind, for years, I would swear that it was a dump-truck load, but I'm sure it was just a pickup truck. The image of that mountain of corn, green and bright and smelling like, well, corn, is burned into my mind's eye.
At any rate, they had the corn delivered to our driveway and then mom and Barbara went to work. They also recruited help, and since they were saving money, they didn't pay the help. What they did was use indentured labor - i.e., their kids. The memories of this time which I hold are of me and my sisters Sam and Chris, mom and Barbara and her boys Steve, Tracy and Perry. All of us together shucking corn, removing the husks and silk, battling the worms and earwigs (how many do YOU think we found in a million ears of corn?) and laughing.
We laughed and we talked, and talked and laughed. There were jokes and people throwing bugs and corn. Lots and LOTS of corn. And if you thought you could get away from the corn by going into the house, then you got drafted to help dad and using the cutters to take the corn off the cobs. The cutter looked like a metal U-shaped wire with what I thought was a bent saw blade rolled into a circle to slide down the cob that was impaled on a board with a nail to hold it in place. Wet, messy and smelling of corn. (I detect a theme.)
Mom is gone, and I haven't seen Barbara for way too long. Tracy I run into once in a while and Steve and Perry are still out there. Sam was taken a few years ago and Chris is another story altogether. I can still hear the laughter. I can still feel the heat of summer in Logan and hear the crickets as we worked way into the night.
I still like to eat corn, I just hate to shuck it. But I love the memories of the friends and families that I miss.