My life has become one of ritual – more of the slow motion type. These rituals center around the garden and putting food by. For years (and years) I have begun the canning season with rhubarb, always the first vegetable to make an appearance here. I planted my own patch of rhubarb on the property about 5 years ago. My mother always told me she couldn’t grow it here, she had tried for years.
Our real rhubarb ritual was to go to a friend’s house every spring and pick our fill there. Their patches of rhubarb are magnificent. This plant is showy and large. The rhubarb at this house fills large swathes around the back yard of the house as well as over by their vegetable garden. The woman with the gardens was also my mother’s best friend and I dare say picking rhubarb was an excuse to sit around a table with a cup of tea as well.
This ritual has gone on for more or less 55 years. The family became part of who we are. My mother passed away in 1989 but the ritual continued. The rhubarb gave me an excuse to visit, hear the stories of my childhood, catch up with a family I felt was my own.
Once I had picked enough I would go into the house for that cuppa and chat. What should have taken a few minutes often turned into hours but this is what it was all about. Reminiscing and words of wisdom imparted across the kitchen table over a hot beverage. Most of all it was a reminder of how much we all loved each other and our families.
The most difficult part of life I think now is the shifting of generations. I am now of an age when all of our parents are leaving us. This year I will not go to pick rhubarb. The house is empty now and I am coming to terms with the fact that the matriarch is gone, left us a few days ago to join her beloved husband. I picture cups of tea being served all around in that great reunion. Walks around a warm, green verdant yard discussing kids and gardens. That is my vision of heaven really.
The shift is also to my own patch of rhubarb here. On hearing of her death I went out and picked some rhubarb and baked a cake to be eaten with a nice cup of tea while I remember. As I was in the garden I realized it wasn’t about rhubarb not growing on the property at all, it was about the ritual of visiting. Conscious or unconscious these women knew what they were doing.