I was growing a little fretful that the marmalade supply was nearing its end and the thought of having to go to the store and buy a jar of something that no more resembled what we were accustomed to caused a tiny sense of panic in me. I mean, if you happen to get used to golden slivers of fruit encased in your own salvaged glass jars, well, there is no going back. Honestly, there is no going back.
I bought limes. A large bag of limes to be honest and when I got home from town I dug out my big chopping board and with my trusty kitchen knife, recently sharpened, I set about slicing up the fruit into thin slivers to soak overnight. It is satisfying. I will tell you that. And your hands get a great cleansing from the juice, tiny indentations appear on your fingers. The air is full of tang.
In the morning I got up early and put the fruit in a big pan, brought it to the boil and then simmered for almost an hour to soften the peel. The smell. How can I describe it? It smells green and citrus like. Bitter but with potential. It challenges the belief that one can make something out of it that will propel one into wanting to spread it on top of early morning toast over a sheet of good Irish butter.
I heated the sugar in the oven. Sterilised the jars. Put the saucers into the freezer to cool so that when the gelling time came I could check for perfection. I did all this while H insisted the weather was going to change, that we should as soon as possible, walk the dogs. I kept telling him, in a little bit, in a little bit and so he roamed around the garden tearing away at old weeds and new weeds and doing whatever he does out there.
Eventually, the marmalade appeared to gel. I pushed my index up against the congealing mass on the blue spode saucer. I felt satisfied. I poured the lime marmalade into the jars and sealed the tops. I called H. He called the dogs. We set off down the road and when we got to the point where we usually turn back I asked him if he wanted to go further. He hesitated. Our pause seemed interminable. We were at a crossroads.
We kept walking on. The day was stunning. It was too good to miss. The cows in the fields seemed to eye us with suspicion. New wildflowers appeared - though they looked shy as if they did not trust the fine day, as if they decided to wait a little. The new house on the hill looked fine, although too severe for my liking. I remember when the place was being cleared and seeing a young couple sit by the big trees as if planning their life. Now a tricycle sat on the driveway. Windows open from the house to welcome the day. Otherwise no sign of movement. I was happy for these people. Their plans seemed to be working out for them.
Over the long walk we went. Talking to eachother about life and creaking trees and lost dreams and things we still yearned for. I was a little sad to think one of my boys' happened to be twenty today and was off in the city, in the library, reading and studying. I thought about that and moved on and when I got home I checked the marmalade and it had not set. I went about taking it out of the jars again, back into the pan, added a tad more sugar, boiled the thick substance for fifteen minutes. Washed out the jars, put them in the oven for extra caution. Checked the gelling again and yes, I felt sure it had worked this time. And it had. And I had eight jars of lime marmalade on the windowsill and beyond the lime marmalade the daffodils, stubbornly existing into this time of year clapped at my persistance. I moved on into the day. So much more happened. Strange little things as if the universe collided and for a minute on the collision I was back in a hospital in New Mexico holding my new baby son, swaddling him to my breast as the sun beat down on the arid soil beyond the window and I never even imagined twenty years from then. Not even if I had tried.