Millie LaFontaine: Jelly jars and political pickles

For the Monitor
Published: 9/9/2020 6:00:11 AM

By the time you read this, the primary election results will be available, at least I hope so. I’m not alone in wondering, with bated breath, how this will all turn out.

This is more than a dress rehearsal, and a lot is on the line for a number of deserving candidates, but the most important candidate of all is our electoral system. Our system strives to remain free and fair despite two invisible enemies, tiny viruses on the one side, and seeds of misinformation and distrust, the latter sown, actively or passively, by leadership at the top.

Happily, fall is in the air, and we have plenty to divert our attention, even as worries of the pandemic and the coming general election swirl around us. For me, fall is the time to prepare for the season ahead. Canning, preserving, or freezing the produce from my garden is as satisfying and necessary to me as gathering nuts and acorns appears to me for the squirrels who have gone into overdrive outside my window.

Jelly-making is calming and meditative; baking breads with peaches, apples, or pumpkins is enormously comforting.

I have memories of helping my mom make pickles and can vegetables, and I still see in my mind’s eye the shelves in our cellar lined with vegetables and jellies of every hue. And I love sharing my bounty with friends and family.

So this year, more than ever, I have been seeking the fall rituals to stay grounded.

A friend invited me to pick Concord grapes this past weekend to make grape jam. When I realized my supply of Mason jars had run low, I hurried to the nearest store to pick some up. Ten stores later, I understood that I was not the only one in town who felt the need to squirrel away food and soothe my low-level anxieties this way. There wasn’t a jelly jar to be had for miles around.

An internet search for the missing jars forced me to draw two conclusions. First, New Hampshire is not the only place where people are preparing to hunker down for hard months ahead, determined not to let the tiny enemy viruses get the better of us. Second, the price of the humble jelly jar had more than doubled. The few jars I could find on the web were going to go to the highest bidder.

For me, at least, the law of supply and demand took on a more sinister aspect, and I found it hard not to draw parallels with our current political pickle.

So I’m trying to stay calm, and trust in the strength of our democratic process. I hope with all I’ve got that the highest bidder is not the only winner in this election process.

One person, one vote is the law of the land. And every single one of us needs to act to preserve our right to free and fair elections.

(Millie LaFontaine of Concord is a retired neurologist.)

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