‘Today’ my mother says, triumphant, ‘we are bottling peaches’.
When I ask why, my mother tells me that it is ‘our tradition’
As though I have bottled peaches before.
I have never bottled peaches before.
But my mother is a persistent woman
She opens the windows to let the fruity air escape into the afternoon
And then guides me with her cautious, calloused hands.
Halfway through I realize that when she said ‘our tradition’
She wasn’t talking to me.
My mother’s thoughts were far away
In the kitchen of a home long since cleared away
To make room for apartments.
She was bottling peaches with her mother,
Years before even the first chemo session.
I watch the trenches in my mother’s forehead smooth away.
My mother looks to the sky and smiles slightly, as if to say
‘Look at me! I have found a way to cheat both death and time’—
I don’t have the heart to tell her that I despise the taste