The Day the Jelly Turned

This has been the year of revelations for me. The year my heart was split open and everything that I’ve packed away and shut the door on came tumbling out. Some of it was just too much. But the reality is I’m nothing special.

I find it curative to open myself up to those I’m close to. I’m surrounded by friends that share with me stories from their pasts that leave me dumbfounded. Consistently it’s never a tale of a huge clash, it’s always a subtle slight. A slight that you try to overlook and you push it away into the corner of your heart, until one day it comes tumbling out.

Those special ones know that this blog is open to them to share a story if they feel sparked to do so. Today I share with you one of those stories, exquisitely written by a very dear friend.

The Day the Jelly Turned

When I was down in South Carolina working at White Hall Plantation for a client recently, there was one afternoon where I took a trip down the highway to a great little jelly store about 20 minutes north, toward Savanah. It’s called the Carolina Cider Company.  I’ve been there a few times during other work trips to White Hall. The shop has added a much-needed coffee shop. The barista made the most delicious Amercano for me. While the coffee was prepared; I perused the jellies. I found a jar of Apricot jelly. Mom loves apricots and I was excited to find this. I grabbed it along with a jar of strawberry basil and a jar of peach mint. All for mom.

Coffee in hand at the counter and jelly lined up, I ask the girl behind the counter if they could ship for me. She lets me know that they no longer ship but that there is a post office up the road a bit. I ask her and the other girl working there, the barista, how long it takes when they drive to the post office. The two girls in sync respond, “we don’t drive”. I smile and ask, “do you not know how to drive, or do you choose to not to drive?” They both respond again with “we choose not to drive”. These girls are very friendly and cheerful; they seem to enjoy their work. I respect their choice and am impressed with their demeanor. We chat some more, and I blurt out that the jelly is for my mom. And I added “even though we don’t get along”. The girl behind the counter responds with, “who does?” and smiles.  She helps me package the jelly, I pay, and I am off down the road back to White Hall, the opposite direction to the suggested post office. I knew there was going to be another trip to Walterboro at some point that day or next. Walterboro is the small town that I run to for supplies and sometimes lunch. Walterboro is in the opposite direction of the coffee shop and on the other side of White Hall.

The next day I am off to Walterboro for indeed lunch and to mail the jelly to mom. The day or so gave me some think time. How many times had I done very thoughtful things for my mother in my lifetime and I ended up feeling empty or not appreciated? I had to remind myself of this and mostly I needed to ask myself why I was sending her the jelly. I wanted to make her happy, to connect with her, to show her that I was thinking of her, to show her that I care. Old empty feelings came flooding in. I was reminded that a one-sided relationship only serves one person. In sending the jelly, I was again seeking connection with my mother. I was seeking a mirroring back. Not a mirroring back of I expect you to send me some jelly sometime, but a mirroring back of sentiment. A connection. A bonding. An understanding that is supportive. I was seeking for example, perhaps, that at some point a reaching out on her part, without the prodding of a sibling or insincerity on her part, to just let me know that she read something that she thought I might be interested in or something of that sort. I was reminded of the deep sadness that I have with my relationship with my mother. There just is no connection. My tap dancing prettier just doesn’t work.

At the post office at that very moment in time, I realized that I was yet again setting myself up for disappointment. The under 25-year-old girls at the jelly/coffee shop had sparked in me to yet again to go along with that ole if you can’t beat em join em attitude. Send the package to mom. Make her feel good. It will make you feel good. Humans at an age of something under 25 had chosen to limit their lives by not driving; intentionally holding themselves back in life. I respect their choice with my limited information of them and I needed to respect a healthy choice for me. I reminded myself to be grateful for self-awareness, and I changed the address on the box to me. It felt good for me to catch myself repeating old toxic patterns and for me to do something for myself instead. To stop doing things with unhealthy expectations of my mother. She just doesn’t have the capacity to be genuinely supportive, interested, protective, or thoughtful. And her not doing these things instinctively as a mother, makes me sad. There is nothing that I can do to change this. She is who she is.

I was reminded of when I lived in California, and occasionally, during the first few years that I lived there, mom would send me a fruit cake at Christmas time. I have never liked fruit cake. I love banana bread. Thoughtful would have been banana bread. But fruitcake gave her a comical narrative for her to share with my siblings and others in the family regarding her gay child who now lives in California. A sister in law, let it slip one time that she knew mom was sending me a fruitcake.  She seemed to think it was funny. It took me a while to figure out, but I eventually let mom know that I didn’t like fruit cake and reminded her of how much I loved banana bread. She immediately responded that banana bread would go bad in the mail. The message was: banana bread too much trouble, too much time and expense. The ultimate message: you are too much trouble, go along with what I want. Fruit cake gave her a conversation that was indirect to have with other relatives. I mean, how could a loving mother be disconnected to her child, just because they are gay? She wasn’t disconnected, she was sending a fruitcake and the offspring just didn’t appreciate her thoughtfulness. This added to her narrative. There are countless little shorts like this over the last 35 years. Remembering this and other instances gave me the strength to turn the jelly around.

Am glad I did. It was delicious this morning.

Nina Shaw

August 4, 2019

Apricot Jelly

“You owe yourself the love that you so freely give to other people”


  1. Beautifully written. I could identify with so much of it. I am not gay but my adopted mother found many other excuses to treat me in a similar fashion. For me it took selling my home and moving close by her to “help” her. I finally realized I had to let my fantasy mother/daughter relationship go. I have rested much easier since. The growth for me was also letting go of my anger. I bear her no ill will. She is who she is and the loss is hers. I have been blessed with many loving mother figures in my life and I am grateful for them. We can create what we need when we are willing to let go of what we expect.

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