Mayhaw Jelly Makes Me Cry

Our five senses connect us to our environment and help us make more informed decisions. Our nervous system even contains a dedicated branch, called the sensory nervous system. But which one is the most powerful? 

Most people would argue that sight is the most powerful. We’d be pretty helpless without it. Hearing is definitely a close second. Helen Keller always impressed me, because of all her accomplishments without those two major senses. 

Losing our sense of touch would be a blow to anyone as well. Can you imagine missing out on all future hugs? I think of my comfy fleece blanket, and the security I feel wrapped up on the couch. Sometimes I run my fingers across the fabric, delighting in the softness and feeling peace in my soul. 

That brings me to the heart of my article this week, that our senses prick our memories. Every time I see a cardinal, I remember my mother delighting in her bird feeder. She loved to sit on her couch as the birds flocked to the feeder. Her favorites were the cardinals, and she had several decorations featuring their bright red plumage. 

Hearing plays a big part in memory retrieval too. Songs call memories to the front of my brain as effectively as my mother calling a young me to the supper table. Every time I hear Eddy Arnold sing “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”, I think of my parents dancing around the room. That was their song, and Eddy’s version was their favorite. 

Phrases jolt my memories too. This past Thanksgiving my aunt brought out a quiz. We had to read all the phrases on a sheet of paper and write down what they meant. I’m sad to say I didn’t know any of them, but I delighted in the stories. My favorite was the term my grandmother used for cleaning out the refrigerator. If someone asked about supper, she’d reply, “Oh, I suppose we’ll have Duke’s Misery.” From a teaspoon of peas to the scrapings of a casserole dish, Grandma Goar would throw it all into a pot and heat it up. 

I could list dozens of sights and sounds that explode with memories. I’m sure you could too. They definitely are the stories and moments we remember first. But what about taste? As we move out of the holiday season, my mind (and stomach) are still cherishing those sweet flashbacks, courtesy of food. But what about after the holidays? Do our stomachs and brains perform happy dances at other tastes and smells in our lives? Mine do. 

It has been over a month since my mother-in-law’s funeral, and my emotions have settled into the new normal. Last week I craved toast with butter and jelly. I slipped a piece of bread into the toaster and turned to my refrigerator. The butter greeted me from the shelf, but I couldn’t find any jelly. I’d already committed to my snack by popping the bread in the toaster, so I turned to my pantry. 

My hands took turns rummaging through the shelves, and hope turned to panic. Finally, in the back behind the lightbulbs, I discovered a pint jar of something promising. I read the label—mayhaw jelly, canned by Ottie Franklin. My toaster signaled the completion of its task, and I grabbed a spoon. My heart warmed to my small meal, and the bonus of pleasant memories. I drank my coffee and ate my toast, slathered with butter and tart berries. And I closed my eyes as the memories of my mother-in-law shoved each other, competing to be at the front of the line. That’s when I discovered that mayhaw jelly makes me cry.

Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at