19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Friday, September 4, 1914: Nothing much for today.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to finally post something I wrote in September, 2011, but never posted. The story is about quinces. At the time I planned to buy some quinces, make some quince jelly, and then include the following story in the post. But I couldn’t find any quinces that year, so I never used the story.
And, in 2012 and 2013, I again scoured farmers markets and farm stands looking for quinces—but never found any, so I again never used the story. This year, I once more haven’t found any quinces, but I decided that it’s a memory worth sharing even if I can’t tie it to a recipe. Here goes—
Grandma never learned how to drive—and after she became a widow when she was in her early 70s, family members took her shopping, to appointments, and to church. Each Sunday my uncle brought her to church in McEwensville, and my family took her home.
One Sunday that stands out in my memory is a crisp, sunny late summer or early fall day when we drove past a weathered house on the way home from church. A woman, whom I’ll call Flora, lived in the house.
Grandma noticed ripe quinces on some small trees in Flora’s overgrown yard, and said, “I wish I had some quinces. I’d like to make some jelly.”
Several days later my mother stopped at Flora’s and asked if she could buy some quinces. Flora never had much money, and she happily sold Mom a grocery bag full of quinces for several dollars. Mom took the quinces over to Grandma’s and was astonished to see freshly filled jelly jars–jars filled with homemade quince jelly– on Grandma’s kitchen counter.
Surprised, Mom asked Grandma where she had gotten the quinces. Grandma said, “Oh, I walked over to Flora’s and bought them.”
We were amazed that our elderly grandmother had walked two miles or so to buy quinces, and then lugged a heavy bag of them home.
The next Sunday Grandma said, “It’s strange how everyone’s giving me quinces this year. Marjorie [her daughter] brought me some yesterday.”
A few days later we drove by Flora’s house. There were two large hand-painted wooden signs in her yard that said Quinces for Sale. Three people seeking to buy quinces apparently led Flora to think that there was a market for them—and she probably never realized that they all were for the same person. I wonder if she sold any more after the signs went up.
After looking for quinces for four years now, I wish that Flora and her quinces were still around. I’d be her best customer.