The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my mom (Anna) on FaceTime. She told me about the annual tradition of making tomato sauce from scratch with her family. The process was a lot of hard work, so the family had to wake up very early in the morning and work all day long. They had to wash, cut, and cook the tomatoes. After that, my grandfather used the tomato-skinning machine to separate the skins from the juices of the tomatoes. Finally, they sealed the mason jars very tightly to prevent spoiling. The result was the freshest, most flavorful Italian tomato sauce ever created. They saved hundreds of jars last them the entire year. This story is very important to my mother to remember because after her parents passed away, the tradition no longer takes place. An interesting physical description of my mom was her short height because she is the second youngest child of the family.

“Wake up! Wake up!” Angie screamed in Anna’s ear, rocking her body back and forth.

Anna leaped up immediately. “Stop that!” she scolded. As her eyes slowly adjusted to her surroundings, she glanced over at the window. The early September morning was completely dark and the birds were dead silent. Anna gasped, realizing what day it was. She leaped out of bed and onto her feet, rapidly throwing on clothes.

Angie mocked Anna in a sing songy voice, “You’re in trouble… You’re in trouble…”

Anna shoved her out of the way and stomped her feet down the hallway and the stairs. As soon as she entered the kitchen, she received a deathly look from her parents who were surrounded by hundreds of sterilized mason jars and buckets of juicy red tomatoes. She gawked at them, hesitating to move.

“Well, don’t just stand there like a bump on a log. Get to work!” Dad shouted, continuing to wash a fresh tomato under the cold sink water. He then took a short knife and dug a circular shape around the stem. He pulled it out, threw the stem aside, and cut the whole tomato in half.

Anna slipped away into the pantry to look for gloves. Suddenly, she felt a forceful nudge on her shoulder. She looked up at her sister Rosie, who smirked, saying, “Nice of you to join us.” Rosie lifted an enormous metal tomato machine with both hands and held onto it tightly. “By the way,” she added, “Johnny and Silvester need your help outside.” Rosie waddled into the kitchen.

Anna dashed out the back door, rolling up her sleeves and slipping on a pair of gloves. The backyard was was filled with dozens of wooden buckets of red tomatoes and two scrawny teenage boys struggling to lift them. “Anna banana!” Johnny exclaimed. “Are you ready for the most important day of the year?”

“She better be,” grunted Silvester, dropping a heavy bucket of tomatoes in front of Anna and wiping the sweat from his forehead. “We’re a little behind schedule today, so you need to help us separate these tomatoes and get them inside.”

Anna nodded and began to go through the motions. One by one, she plucked the ripe tomatoes from their clusters and placed them aside. From the corner of her eye, she could see pale orange and pink lights emerging from the clouds like a painting. She turned her head to get a better look at the angelic sunrise and admired its beauty. The day had just begun.

Around two o’clock in the afternoon, the sun had shifted to its peak position, and its harsh rays beat down on the pavement where the tomato buckets were now empty. Then, like music to her ears, Mom shouted the words “Lunch is ready!” drawing Anna into the kitchen. Mom just finished stirring the delicious tomato sauce in a pot when Dad set the table for seven. The family filed into the kitchen and gathered at the table, beaming with excitement. Boun appetito!

Making Tomato Sauce

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1980
Elizabeth, NJ

I interviewed my mom (Anna) on FaceTime. She told me about the annual tradition of making tomato sauce from scratch with her family. The process was a lot of hard work, so the family had to wake up very early in the morning and work all day long. They had to wash, cut, and cook the tomatoes. After that, my grandfather used the tomato-skinning machine to separate the skins from the juices of the tomatoes. Finally, they sealed the mason jars very tightly to prevent spoiling. The result was the freshest, most flavorful Italian tomato sauce ever created. They saved hundreds of jars last them the entire year. This story is very important to my mother to remember because after her parents passed away, the tradition no longer takes place. An interesting physical description of my mom was her short height because she is the second youngest child of the family.

Decade: 1980s
Rating:
Recorded by Danny Scerbo on March 13, 2019
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