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?