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Tues. Dec. 21

Proverbs for the Day:

“He who guards his mouth and tongue, guards his soul from trouble.” Proverbs 21:23

"Christmas Jelly" title page from Deep Roots. Inside text and graphics were designed by Marty Bee.

“Christmas Jelly”   from Deep Roots copyright 2010 Creekbank Stories

Of all my holiday gifts, Christmas jelly is always my favorite.

Each year I receive this special gift from a very special lady in my life. Before I share what Christmas jelly is, let me share about the special person who gives it each year.

Eleanor Andrews is my neighbor in Dry Creek. All of my life she has lived in the same house along Highway 113. Her house is easy to spot as it has the prettiest yard in our community. Her beautiful garden, flowers, and shrubs are examples of her love of gardening.

Mrs. Andrews is more than just my neighbor and a lover of flowers. She is also my all-time favorite teacher. Mrs. Andrews taught fifth grade at Dry Creek High School and later at East Beauregard High. She taught practically every young person in Dry Creek for a period of a quarter century.
Eleanor Andrews was from the “Old School.” She was stern and took no gruff or lip off any student. Everything was rigid and “down the line” in her classroom. There was no doubt that she was captain of the ship. She possessed a stare (made complete with her tongue tucked firmly in her cheek) that would stop a charging grizzly bear in its tracks.

Her reputation preceded her, and she was just as strict as the older kids on the bus had described her. Sitting in her fifth grade class, I also saw something else: Beneath that gruff exterior were warm smiling eyes. She loved watching students learn and leading young people into new knowledge. During that year, 1967, she became my favorite teacher. And now over thirty years later, she still is.

Now let me get back to that Christmas jelly. Eleanor Andrews has been retired for many years and is much older and frailer than when she ruled the fifth grade. Because of her health she doesn’t venture out much anymore. She lives alone surrounded by her flowers and memories of a life filled with teaching and touching lives.

Each year a few weeks before Christmas I receive a phone call from her, telling me to “to drop by her house.” I know that the best present of the season is now complete—Christmas jelly is ready.
Before going I cut one of the Christmas trees from my farm. I tagged it weeks earlier, carefully choosing one that would meet her exacting standards. After loading it in my truck, I nervously drive to her home, hoping she will approve of my tree. Once again I feel as if I’m in the fifth grade waiting to hand in an important assignment.

Entering her living room, I’m greeted with that special smile I’ve known over the years. Always when I’m in her presence she makes me feel as if I’m the most important person in the world—that’s why she’s always been my favorite teacher.

She thrusts a basket of eight jars into my arms, each filled with homemade jelly. There are all of my favorites: muscadine, mayhall, even crabapple. Included are several jars of hot pepper jelly, and to top it all off, a Ziploc bag of chocolate “Martha Washington’s.”

I look at this assortment of homemade jelly and my mouth waters thinking about all the biscuits it will top off during the coming year. Oh, the joys of homemade jelly. As Mrs. Andrews happily examines her Christmas tree, she insists on paying for it. I laugh. “No way. The best deal I ever make is trading a tree for the best home-made jelly in Dry Creek.”

I leave with my arm load of jelly jars. As I get in my truck, I think about the art of giving. I look at the colorful decorated jars of jelly and am once again reminded of what Christmas is truly about. It is all about giving—giving of ourselves as we share what we have. I’m so glad to live in a place where gifts like Christmas jelly abound.

Like so many of my mentors and teachers, Eleanor Andrews is no longer alive. What would I give to sit in her living room again, hearing her warm laughter, and eating one of her chocolate treats.

Christmas is about enjoying and being grateful for our many gifts.

Be sure to spend time with the special people in your life.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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One comment

  1. I found your site through a Baptist Press article and am thoroughly enjoying reading past entries. I really liked this one. I had never heard of Martha Washingtons, but looked up the recipe and will have to try making some. Thanks!

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