Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Different Kind of Memorial

So many things in my life are different ten years on.
On September 10, 2001:

I didn't intimately know the geography of Manhattan island, which I learned frantically in the hours of 9/11 because it was where my brother worked at the time.

I trusted air travel. Slightly.

I carried around 45 more pounds than I do now.

I suffered from asthma, frequent migraines, post-partum depression.

I didn't have my beautiful Owen yet. (I did have my beautiful Luke, and even through the post-partum depression, I knew what a treasure he was.)

I was mighty interested in keeping up with the Joneses.

I, along with my family, ate terribly.

Really, changing that last one has led to many of the other changes. The year Owen was born I read The Tightwad Gazette from cover to cover and we joined a CSA, events which precipitated the complete restructuring of our household. I even attribute homeschooling to those events, because although we didn't start that until years later, they are part of the same mindset. For me, at least.

In the intervening decade, I've looked at the clock at exactly 9:11 stupidly often. It still gives me goosebumps, as does thinking about how close my brother came to being a victim that day. He tells of coming through the under-the-towers subway station just after the first plane struck, and getting off to change trains one stop north. While waiting he heard sirens, screams, and a bland message over the intercom about "an incident interrupting train service," and along with everyone else he just waited in that seen-it-all New Yorker way until eventually a train came and he got on. He didn't find out what was happening until he arrived forty-five minutes later at his job in northern Manhattan, all his co-workers gathered around the television weeping.

And now, it is September of 2011. We've been adhering to our new normal as much as possible, given some health problems of mine; the boys hang with the chickens each day and have taken on the largest part of chicken-care, while Ben has had to do far more in the garden than I would like. (Just a little aside, the 2001 me would have laughed really hard at the idea of ever keeping chickens.) I've managed to put up quite a bit of salsa, tomatoes, jams, and have dehydrated several quarts of our favorite fruits.

You may know the golden rule about food preservation: always label and date the food, lest you forget what it is or come across it later and can only wonder if it is safe to eat. Hence, the relish I made in July of last year states "Relish, 7/10." I've labeled stuff that way since 2004, when I started canning, and now that we are in September of 2011 the labels read "9/11." Goosebumps, every time.

I've been giving serious thought to lying, to deliberately labeling everything canned, dried, or frozen during this month with the date 8/11, or 10/11.

But I think I won't. Our country changed that day in ways that are still being realized ten years on. Our laws, politics, world view, the way that we treat neighbors and strangers alike, everything is different because of 9/11. The very fact that we in our home have learned to put by so much of our own food, to be so invested in the local economy, so embedded in our community, began with 9/11. It would feel like a denial of history to lie on those jam jars or pickle jars.

Boy, that last sentence sounds bizarre. How can I possibly link up denial of history to canning jars? And yet it's true. Because every time I label preserved food this month, I'm going to have goosebumps. And then this winter, every time I grab some dehydrated peaches, or apples to make pie, those goosebumps will shiver their way up my spine again.

I'll think about how lucky I am to still have my brother, and I know that in the same moment I'll also be sad for those who did lose loved ones. I'll think about changes, especially of the wrenching negative kind, but I'll also think about the positive ones. I'll think about the kind of hope that causes a family to plant a garden and put up some produce.

It's a tiny way of remembering, a different kind of memorial.