I was shopping at my favorite grocery store, when a can caught my eye. I hadn’t seen one of these in years. I’m not sure if that is because they are rare, or if it’s because I don’t spend much time in the canned fruit aisle. “So what?” you may ask. The can evoked another flood of memories. Memories of student days and the attendant dreadful jobs, of marital squabbles and happy “making up.”
During the school year, Dennis and I had mind numbing student jobs, but they had their positive sides. We both graded papers, mostly. This was not fun – in fact, it was frequently painful and occasionally actual torture, as you can only imagine if you have actually done it. But you could do it at the dining room table, in bed, outside under a tree, early, late, or in between. Flexible hours and no commute. We whined and complained, but that was Paradise compared to our summer jobs. Mine was in the library. I worked for the English Department, but had to do it all in the library - all day looking up items in the card catalog from huge bibliographies given to me by the various professors, and then filling out little forms to order the ones that the library didn’t own. It was dreadful. I felt like Sisyphus. Since I didn’t actually work for the library, but just in the library, the library staff didn’t really talk to me much because I wasn’t one of them, and the English Department staff didn’t talk to me much because I was in the library. I suffered excruciating ennui.
Dennis’s situation was far worse. He worked in the Libby cannery doing something awful. First “Peaches,” and later, “Pears.” Some of our friends continued on into “Pumpkins.” That was how they talked about it. “Are you doing ‘Pumpkins’ this year?” “No, I’m only doing ‘Peaches’ and ‘Pears.’”
I never understood quite what he did, but when he got home, his clothes were so saturated with syrup and juice that they could stand up without him in them. I usually went to bed before he arrived, but just before I turned in, I filled the bath tub with soapy water, and when he returned, he dropped whatever he had on into the tub to soak so that it would be easier to wash the next morning. Once, in the middle of the night, I woke up with him pounding on me in his sleep. “What are you doing?” I croaked. He had been having a dream about stacking boxes of pears.
Another time, he had committed some husbandly offense (I don’t remember what), and had upset me something fierce. When he got home from the cannery that night, he handed me a can, similar to the one pictured. I opened it with a can opener, and it had a little poem of apology in it. Of course, my heart went flippity flop, and I forgave him for whatever bad thing he had done.