The hottest part of the summer was always the best. A day would come when a nine year old girl would arrive at Grandma's house and find a factory of green bean production. Sometimes the work of picking the beans in the garden was already done. Those piles of beans would fill the bushel baskets till they were nearly overflowing.
The kitchen was a hot and mysterious place with all those shiny pressure canners. It was strictly off limits to kids. I'm pretty sure the men folks didn't wander in there either. Mom and Grandma owned that territory, bustling around filling jars and emptying the finished jars onto big, spread out bath towels.
They didn't mind their exile from the kitchen. The living room would be filled with those bushel baskets, parked next to various family members who were snapping beans into big mixing bowls or dish pans. Sometimes the television was on, but usually it was a time for visiting. The men in the family enjoyed the break from farm work in the heat of the summer.
The nine year old girl loved being big enough to help. There was a TV tray for her to use, a dish towel in her lap, and a big pile of beans waiting to be snapped. For the first time in her life, they gave her a small kitchen knife and showed her how to use it to cut out small bug bites in the beans. It was the first time she got to really contribute to the work of the family. In that living room, she was able to work like an adult and be a part of the adult world. She liked it.
It was a hurried time, as they had to keep ahead of the canners in the kitchen. Still, they sat in the living room talking and listening to stories from Grandpa. For that day, three generations of the family would come together to work with a single purpose, home canned green beans that would fill the shelves all winter. They enjoyed each little pop that came from the kitchen signaling that another can had sealed tight.
It seems like another world to me now. Grandma Belma passed away a few years ago and Grandpa Tuck has moved to North Carolina. I miss having their presence in my everyday life. Now, my mom is the grandma in that house. My Mary is the young girl, exploring the world and contemplating adulthood. I'm in the middle, filling the role of mom, trying to pass on the knowledge and love of past generations to my kids.
I hope and pray that my kids and eventually my grand-kids will have the opportunity to work alongside many generations of family to accomplish a common goal. There is no better way to learn family history, a great work ethic, some very funny stories and build family bonds. Yeah, I loved those hot days of summer.....