The Fruit Cellar: A Place of Discovery

My mother preserved things. First and foremost was produce, chiefly from her garden: beets, corn, carrots, cucumbers, peaches, pears, cherries as well as applesauce and stewed rhubarb. Anything that could be “put up” in jars.

In the basement of my childhood home, beyond the furnace room, was a second large, dry, windowless space—the fruit cellar. But oh, so much more than fruit was there. The entire right-hand wall boasted a battalion of colourful glass jars. Row upon row, floor to ceiling, arranged by hue. What an artwork Andy Warhol could have made of that display! Certainly a more vibrant masterpiece than 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Sometimes I sneaked into that storeroom, pulled down on the long string connected to the bright ceiling bulb, dragged a blanket from under the lowest shelf, and sat cross-legged on the cement floor in front of the wall of jars. I peered up in awe at the abundance. Our family would never, ever want for food. We would never be the starving children in a far-flung corner of the world to whom Mother threatened to send any uneaten morsels on our dinner plates. Albeit, a diet of pickled veggies and sugared fruit might become tedious after a week or two. Not to mention that our life expectancy might be somewhat abbreviated.

The fruit cellar housed other treasures. The many wooden shelves on the wall opposite the vivid Mason jars supported all manner of valuable articles that Mom’s I-grew-up-in-the-Great Depression mentality refused to discard.

Once, as I rummaged among the relics I unearthed a grade school scribbler. Like all teacher-supplied workbooks at the time, it sported a bright blue cover with heavy black lines for your name and subject. This one belonged to my brother. George was the name, Writing the subject. Each page had widely-spaced blue lines and a broad left hand margin demarcated with a hot pink line. The book housed only one story, “Blackie.” George’s fierce grip on the pencil etched the large printed letters into the page and dented the one below. The tale was short, only a few sentences; the story tragic, the death of his pet dog. The details scant. A car killed Blackie when he ran onto the road.

How odd. I never knew we had a dog. Did we have a dog? George was four years older than me. Did the dog die before I could remember it? Did George make up the story? Maybe there never was a dog. But, from the force of the printing, George must have felt a terrible loss. Why was there only one story? All those empty pages. Mom would have said it was wasteful. Yet, she preserved this book. This single story. Why?

So many questions. So many emotions. So much to take in. I replaced the notebook on the shelf and told no one about my discovery. I wonder, did I ever venture into that space again? More than six decades later, the questions remain unanswered. That bright blue scribbler is the only thing I recall from the left side of the cellar. I still can’t account for the intensity of the experience. Could it have been that my young heart could not grasp the contrast between the colourful life preserved in glass jars and the sudden, inexplicable death of a small black dog?

4 thoughts on “The Fruit Cellar: A Place of Discovery”

  1. Hi Prairie

    It has been awhile since I actually read one of your posts, though I have saved every email with the intention of binging – someday! This one struck a memory, not specifically of having been in a fruit cellar though I have been in a few and many were not nearly as pleasant as the one you describe.

    It reminded me more of the common root cellar and that led to Janet Lunn and ‘The Root Cellar’ which reminded me of Lyn Cook and her book ‘Samantha’s Secret Room’ which both brought back memories of reading the books and a day, many years later in my book shop chatting with both ladies. A pleasant memory of decades past – thank you. It also reminded me of a decade past reading these books with my son, so again thank you for the memories – even if you’re not the root of them.

    I look forward to a future binge of reading all your articles. I know each and every one will likely be a trip down memory lane, into those pleasant side passages seldom brought to mind in our busy lives, tucked away in the dark dusty corners of our past.

    Thanks again for dusting them off for me, or at least pointing me in their general direction.

    Stephen B Scurr

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Stephen, and I do mean dear. Thank you for taking the time to “share your thoughts.” I was surprised how many people got in touch with me regarding their fruit cellar experiences–most pleasant, some traumatic. Statistics say that longer blog posts–2000 words–attract more readers. My most-read blogs are 800-1000 words and The Fruit Cellar only 500. So much for statistics. When I read this piece to the writing group, Tom apologized. He was so mesmerized by recollections of a long-ago fruit cellar he never heard the last part of the story.

    Your wit still shines!

    Prairie

    Like

  3. Hi Prairie
    Sometimes it’s not so much the length as the subject and when you hit the right cord you can get an avalanche of response with the shortest of Articles. What caught my attention and got me to read was the title of your blog post; most I can resist, but this one hit me at the right time, in the right frame of mind and besides, i have a soft spot for ladies talking about cellars – at least that’s what past experience would indicate and you got me with too.
    The power of the “seller” is still strong!
    Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That last post should bring out the teacher in you! I failed to edit before posting and look what happened. Feel free to correct me where I’m wrong, but don’t tell Judith or I’ll never hear the end of it.
    My tag line – Mistakes made while you wait.
    Stephen

    Like

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