“January Jelly,” Friend, Jan. 1991, 35
Jenny jumped out of bed to the good smells of breakfast cooking. Mother must be feeling much better, she thought as she bounced down the stairs.
The January winds had carved a snowbank near the window, and as Jenny looked out, the lacy patterns of snowflakes appeared in the light of the kitchen. Mother greeted her with a cheery smile, and Jenny’s rosy-cheeked little brother sat in his high chair, demanding his cereal. Everything is back to normal, thought Jenny contentedly.
It had been a difficult December for the family. First, Jenny was down with the flu, then her little brother Clark, then Daddy, then the baby. Mother cared for all of them until one day she, too, was sick. Daddy took over, but he wasn’t feeling his best yet, either. So the holidays were almost forgotten. On Christmas Day there were some gifts from Santa and relatives, but the usual family gatherings and church parties passed while the family tried to get well.
Now the holidays were over, and today was the first day back to school after vacation. Jenny was eager to see her friends and teacher again.
As Clark came down the stairs, rubbing sleep from his eyes, Mother grew thoughtful. The happy expression on her face gradually changed, and she appeared sad. “What’s the matter, Mother?” asked Jenny as she ate her warm oatmeal with honey.
“Oh, I’m grateful that we’re all better now, that Daddy has returned to his job, and that you can go back to school, but I feel sad that the holidays passed us by.”
“You mean because we didn’t get a lot of presents this year?” asked Jenny.
“Not that, sweetheart,” Mother said. “I mean we didn’t give a lot of presents. Oh, we remembered our family, but we missed our special visits to our good neighbors—dear Sister Ruth, Mrs. Perkins, and Brother Billings down the road. I hope they had a nice holiday.”
Just then Jenny saw the school bus rounding the curve in the road. She quickly gathered her things, and ran to the door. “ ’Bye, Mother. I love you,” she yelled as she started for the bus, her boots making deep tracks in the snow.
At school Jenny kept busy at her assignments. Her teacher’s happy face reminded her of Mother, and Jenny remembered what Mother had said about the holidays passing them by. She kept thinking about it, even when she was playing with her friends at recess.
On the long ride home in the school bus, while Jenny gazed at rolling mounds of white that covered the farm and fields, Mother’s words were still on her mind. Then she thought, Why do we give Christmas gifts just in December? We could have our own Christmas in January! She was so excited at the idea that she could hardly wait to get home.
As she ran up the lane, Jenny could see Mother outside sweeping snow off their front steps. “Merry Christmas, Mother!” Jenny cried as she ran to greet her.
“What do you mean?” laughed Mother.
“I have the answer, Mother. We don’t have to miss the holidays, after all. We can have Christmas in January.”
Mother’s face brightened. Jenny could tell that she liked the idea.
When they went inside, Jenny smelled hot bread just out of the oven. As Mother gave her a big slice, Jenny said, “We could take something like this to give to Sister Ruth, Mrs. Perkins, and Brother Billings, just to show them we love them. You always say that we should keep Christmas in our hearts all year round.”
“You’re right,” said Mother, “but not just bread.” Her eyes twinkled as she went to the freezer and brought back a can of frozen orange juice.
Jenny was surprised. “We’re going to give them bread and orange juice?”
“Not orange juice,” Mother said. “Orange-Juice Jelly. At least, that’s its name. But we can call it January Jelly, OK?”
With Mother directing, Jenny added two cups of water to one box of pectin and stirred it in a pan. Mother put it on the stove, and when it had boiled for one minute, she added three and a half cups of sugar. She helped Jenny add three-fourth cup of frozen orange juice concentrate, and they let it simmer for two minutes.
In no time at all they were pouring the golden liquid into jars. As the sealing wax hardened, mother cut a piece of red ribbon to wrap around the top of each jar.
When Daddy came home, they bundled the boys up, stacked their gifts on the family sled, and started out.
As the family walked along with Daddy carrying the baby and Jenny pulling the sled, Mother began singing softly, “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.” Jenny felt as if she would burst with joy. She knew that Mrs. Perkins, Brother Billings, and Sister Ruth would be happy to see them and would love the bread and January Jelly, and she couldn’t wait to surprise them.