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Holiday season stirs memories of pickles

Some people give the same gift each Christmas, which prompts me to paraphrase the name of an old movie from the 1960s, ěIf Itís Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,î to ěIf itís Christmas, and itís from Aunt (insert appropriate name), it must be twelve pairs of socks and a pack of underwear.
As I remember, we had a cousin who worked in Mount Olive. In addition to toy trucks, a battery-operated robot, toy guitar, chemistry sets, microscopes, telescopes, etc. in those Christmases of my youth, there would be, each year, like a mathematical constant, something of a completely different nature sitting under the tree, that had been mailed to us by our cousin.
This unique object was a crate. Sealed glass jars lined the box, with straw stuffed between for cushioning during shipment. This annual ěSeasonís Greetingî was a varied assortment of pickles from our cousinís place of employment, the Mount Olive Pickle Company, located at ěThe Corner of Cucumber and Vine, Mount Olive, N.C.î
The jars contained a variety of pickles and I looked forward to this yearly gift of the ěworld of pickledom.î
One year, unbeknownst to us, a jar of pickles cracked during mailing. It became apparent later when the aroma of our cedar tree became infused with the definite scent of dill.
Another year, I remember getting a jar of homemade jam. To the best of my memory, the jam was from my Aunt Lessie on Maupin Avenue. It wasnít delivered by mail, we picked it up during a visit. I remember my mother making blackberry jam and the pillow-sized section of cloth in which the berries had been squeezed. The stain the blackberries left on that cloth was identical to the stain left on my hands during the picking and eating of them.
Native-Americans ate blackberries and used pokeberries for dye. They didnít eat the pokeberries, of course, since they are toxic to humans. Iíll bet Native-Americans might have had a secondary use for blackberries as dye.
From another family member, we would always receive a ěpersonalizedî Christmas card. It wasnít hand-crafted by children, but professionally created, complete with a printed picture of the family in a greeting of the Season. Upon our annual receipt, we would remark upon the childrensí yearly growth, as well as the yearly aging of their parents.
Family and friends may become physically separated from one another by the situations of life, but certain gift ětraditionsî make them seem close. The annual repetition of some of those gifts left such an impression that, for me, the Christmas season is always associated with jam, a wealth of pickles and a picture on a holiday card.

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