This week I found myself elbow deep in putrid pickles and pickled peppers - literally.
I should start from the very beginning and say that I have a very peculiar neighbor. I believe she has a good heart, but she does and says the oddest things. A few weeks ago, as I was visiting with my daughter and her family in my front yard, my next door neighbor walked over to where we were and asked me to come to her home right that minute. I don't see my family as often as I'd like to, so I said I was visiting with family and would be happy to help her in a little while. She insisted I go right then. I asked what it was all about and she said, "Oh I know you love old jars and I have some for you". Well that was surely no emergency, but I walked over to her house. Now, I do love old antique blue jars and have a few in which I display old buttons, wooden spools, and sewing notions, but I have all I could ever want and I was reasonably sure my neighbor did not have any antique jars for me.
As kindly as I could, I explained to her that although I appreciated the thought, I really didn't need any more jars. I thought she probably had another bag of jars for me, since last year she duped me into taking 5 or 6 bags of "old jars" off her hands. Most of them went directly into the re-cycle bin in my garage since most were used condiment jars and there was nothing antique about them. I gave the others to Goodwill.
My neighbor wasn't about to give up on getting rid of her jars and when I looked over to my front yard, there stood my family, waiting to hear just exactly what I was going to say to this woman. They have sometimes chided me for being a pushover and I was about to prove them right - again.
After a few minutes of trying to gently refuse the jars, I gave in. As my luck would have it, there was not a single bag of jars waiting for me inside her house, but rather 5 full boxes of jars stacked by her front door, one on top of the other! They were canning jar boxes that looked as if they'd been through a war. They were stained, dusty, and torn and I didn't want to take them to my house. One last time, I tried to get my neighbor to understand that I really, REALLY did not need or want any jars. I told her I didn't do any canning and didn't know anyone who did. I thanked her for her "offer" and was determined to leave without the jars, but she continued to insist I take them. If I'd had even an ounce of intestinal fortitude, I would have simply walked away, but . . .
My mother taught me I shouldn't be rude to people. She impressed upon me that I should always try to be kind and to be a "good girl". Along the way, I must have interpreted that to mean I should also allow people to take advantage of my good nature. So, against my better judgement, I told my neighbor I'd go get my spouse and son-in-law to help me with the boxes of jars. I took a deep breath and walked back to my front yard, where the family stood waiting to see what I was going to do. I asked the guys to please get the 2-wheeled cart from our garage and help me get the boxes home. My family already knew I was going to end up with those jars. I hated that I'd been duped again - at least I felt duped. In reality, I had a choice to make and I could have walked away. Some people don't understand how hard that is to do for those of us who are pleasers.
As we were loading the boxes of jars onto the cart, my neighbor casually mentioned that some of the jars were full of pickles and pickled peppers and suggested we were welcome to keep those for ourselves. At first I thought it might be nice to have some home-canned pickles, but then I noticed the date on the top box - 1993! I told my neighbor I'd offer the jars to my church for their Granny's Attic area of the October bazaar and she thought that was a grand idea. I think she would have agreed to anything, as long as she was able to get rid of the jars. A couple weeks later, I learned exactly what was in some of those jars.
I'd put off checking the contents of the jars for as long as I dared. The bazaar was to be held this weekend and there was no way I could, in good conscience, leave the mess for the church women. On Friday, I carried box after box to the church kitchen and began to open the jars that held pickles and peppers. The putrid odor of old vinegar and spices was so strong that it took my breath away for a second or two. One by one, I poured the contents of 24 jars into the disposal and flipped the switch. I had to open the kitchen's outside door so I wouldn't be overcome with the fumes.
Once that was done, and I'd gone outside a few times to get some fresh air, I washed all those jars to make them presentable for the sale. Sometimes I can't believe the predicaments in which I find myself. They're almost always of my own doing because I usually end up doing what I think I should do, instead of what I really want to do. I was relieved that no one else was at the church when I was emptying those jars. I turned on the kitchen fan, left the door open while I worked, and even sprayed some air freshener in the hopes of ridding the kitchen of the foul smell before the women arrived to prepare for the bazaar luncheon. I freely admit if I've done something untoward, and I sometimes take the blame even if there is a doubt, but this time, I think I'll just let the church women wonder about that funny smell in their kitchen.