Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mason Jars

Mason jars have come up in conversation a few times over the last week. Largely because of my commentary on a local bar, wishing they would serve beer in mason jars. One might assume I was paying homage to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar, but the truth is that I just think all beverages taste better in a mason jar. Especially water. Especially beer.

Growing up, our cupboard was always full of jars, much to my dismay. In elementary and middle school, a lot of my friends were from wealthier families. Because we lived on the outskirts of my school district some of my classmates were of a different breed. They lived in Warner Ranch and had swimming pools and a gate code to get into their little sector of suburbia. My neighborhood didn't even have a name, much less a gate. I wondered why my mother didn't just buy glasses like normal people. Jars? Why did she insist on reusing pickle jars and jelly jars? Why was she so weird?

20 years later, I realized that she wasn't weird. She was fucking cool. When I open my cupboard and am faced with an army of jars, I sometimes giggle to myself. I proudly drink from those jars and even prefer them to a regular glass. And looking back, I am so grateful for the way I was raised because it made me who I am today. And I like that person. I thank God that I didn't grow up in some fancy house with pretty crystal glasses that all matched because if I would have, where would I be today?

Maybe I'd spend my winter vacation skiing in Aspen and my Spring Break sipping cocktails on the beach in Fiji. Maybe my passport would be full of stamps from my exotic, impromptu vacations. Maybe I'd send out holiday cards to everyone boasting about my family's accomplishments over the past year. Maybe I would have gone to some great college and have a six-figure salary. Maybe not. If I never ended up in some shitty apartment in Mesa, would I have met my husband? A blue collar immigrant who spent his teen years dreaming of a job that could just pay the rent and put food on the table. Would I even know what it was like to dream? If I didn't grow up wanting so much, would I ever question life in this way? Would I ever stop to appreciate the little things?

What is it that changed me over the years? What changed my opinion, what shifted my view? How did I come to appreciate my upbringing and realized that I was so fortunate? I think it started with those damn jars. Reusing them out of necessity and practicality. That simple act was the catalyst of my realization of my mother's struggles as she raised us girls. I suppose a lot of people learn to appreciate their parents as they grow older though. In one way or another. It's only natural.

I asked my husband if they used jars as drinking glasses at his house, growing up in Parral. Si! Mole jars, peach jars, chile curtido jars, he explained. I asked him if he was ever embarrassed when friends came over. If he ever wished his mother would get regular glasses.

Why would I be embarrassed? Why wouldn't you reuse the jars?

He looked at me completely bewildered. Oops. I guess I was the only spoiled brat that worried about what her little friends thought about her family's drinking glasses. Maybe it's an American thing. Maybe not. Maybe it's an Emily thing.

When I began to write this blog, I got emotional. Thinking about my mom, how much I miss her, how much I wish I could be with her day in and day out. How much I wish I could run over to her house on a whim and look at her old artwork and play Scrabble. And over the years, the jars began to remind me of her, remind me home. Where ever that is. Is it in Arizona, where I spent my teenage years, where I met my husband? Is it in Missouri where I was born and where my family lives? Is it Juarez, the first city I've lived in out of necessity and fell in love with out of desperation? No, home really is where the heart is I suppose. Maybe one day home will near my mother, my sisters, my son. Maybe one day home will be near my father. But for now, home is here in Juarez with my husband. I guess I'm already home so it's time to stop missing it.

Whoever thought a spaghetti sauce jar could evoke so much emotion?

18 comments:

  1. Drinking water out of a Mason jar as we speak. It is my glass of choice. I have no idea why. It just fits in the hand so well?

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  2. My children, too, were embarrassed when I first started saving jars to replace the dozens of drinking glasses we've - they've - broken over the years. Your perspective is instructive for them. Thanks for this. - Carol (Wisconsin)

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  3. It's interesting how a simple object can have such a valuable lesson. It's especially moving to me how you take nothing for granted. I have an old cup that everything tastes better in.

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    1. Very interesting. I was actually shocked at how emotional I became. I was just looking at a jar one night and suddenly couldn't stop writing. I have pages and pages more full of gibberish about jars. It's quite funny in hindsight.

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  4. As a 52 yr old professional you'd think I could afford matching dishware by now. But over the years I have accumulated an eclectic collection of plates, cutlery, and glasses - including plenty of mason jars, and even some of those old Welch Grape Jelly jars from my childhood. Spending money on matching dishes was never a priority. We entertain a lot, but our friends are nearly all Latin American and don't have expectations of the picture perfect place setting. But North American cultural expectations die hard. So last year when there was a great sale on Corelle, I bought a bunch of the plain white dishes. Wow, matching plates & bowls in different sizes! Everything else was still mismatched, but so it starts...
    Last week there was another REALLY good sale on cutlery which I liked. So I bought a set, replacing the odds & sods assortment (which actually have a worthy destination - won't be wasted).
    Now my kids (11 & 14) are teasing me, calling me "matchy mommy". My 14 yr old son commented he actually prefers it when the dishes & cutlery aren't all matched. So the mason jars & jelly jars are definitely keepers!! And I'm glad my kids are growing up with different cultural expectations. They don't drink out of mason jars because they're deprived, but because it just makes sense.

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    1. And it does make sense. I see that now. It's funny looking back. I'm a bit embarrassed of how much it bothered me growing up, but it's certainly been a good lesson. Now my kids can make fun of me.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Just a note, the writer of this comment requested that I remove it. I have never and will never delete any your comments. I think we should all have the freedom to speak our minds here, even if we disagree.

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    2. As always I enjoyed your post Emily. Also you mentioned my hometown, Aspen which of course caught my eye. My Dad was a teacher here and I'm 50 so my formative years were spent in the 70s here, a time of hippies, back to the basics and tie dye. Given the time period, it was considered cool to dress like crap and drive beaters. I still have a very strong reverse snobbery; I kind of look down on people who wear furs, drive nice cars and have fancy jewelry. Because of the nature of my family, we kids always had ski equipment but never had new school clothes. In a way I'm spoiled for all the access I had to skiing except for the minor detail that I'm not and never have been a skiing enthusiast. I'm getting off the subject of jars here but Aspen certainly is a place to learn the limits of material possessions. Thank you for your posts if I had a jar to drink out of I would raise it in toast to your voice in writing and your courage in living.

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    3. Thank you. I can see how a family could make room for ski equipment if it was their passion. You should know that when my husband first came from Mexico, he lived in Colorado. It is his chosen place to live if we can ever go back to the US. I am not so convinced because I am anti-snow shoveling. ;) Thank you for your comment and your toast. Salud!

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  6. I think youre a spoiled brat! If you are here to shame anybody (because it sure sounds like your prancing your money around) then go do it somewhere else! Your treasures are built in Heaven not on Earth. Bless others with the wealth God has given you. Peace to you!

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    1. I think you might be responding to the above comment. Unfortunately, the person who wrote it contacted me and requested that I delete it. I did as they requested but it is a shame because she brought up an interesting point. I don't think she was trying to shame anyone, or prance around her money. She was touching on the interesting fact that just as many poor people are embarassed of their lack of money or try to seem like they have more, there are also wealthy people who try to seem like they have less. I think it was an interesting discussion because I've never really seen the other side of the coin.

      But, it's a moot point now as the comment has been taken down.

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  7. my step-mother is a canner so we always had mason jars to drink out of and now that we live down here she sends us her apple butter and jams and so we have mason jars to drink out of here too, love em:)

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    1. Mmmmm... all I read was apple butter.

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