Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Frozen Concentrate

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Shards of glass scattered across the kitchen floor on a dark winter morning. My mother was dressed for work in a handmade skirt and a blouse with a Peter Pan collar. I was five years old, and probably should have been wearing my boots and mittens, ready for daycare, but I wasn’t. Instead, I had been watching her take hold of the orange juice pitcher with both hands, agitating it as if she could work out her frustrations with this mindless chore.

Making orange juice from concentrate was, the way my mother did it, an overwhelmingly complicated task. She never defrosted it first, and had to run the can under hot water until steam rose above the white enamel sink in our rented townhouse.  Then she pried off the lid and sometimes let me lick the yellow slush. I remember its heady sweetness tinged with bitterness, a taste so intense I could never decide if I liked it or not.

At this moment in my life, this split-second memory, my mother was just three years removed from her divorce and brief time in Colombia, where citrus trees grow in backyards and juices are squeezed fresh daily. When I take my own daughter to visit my now-elderly father in Colombia, she is reluctant to try them. Guanábana, lulu, maracuyá. These pink and white and yellow juices, with their fresh pulp and earthy sweetness, are far removed from the bottled drinks and imported fruits that my little girl has come to know here in Minnesota.

For my daughter, tasting these juices fresh from farm and tree must be as strange as it was for my mother to empty the contents of a cardboard can into a glass pitcher, watch the impotent cylinder of yellow-orange ice land with a thud. She would measure three cans of water and then begin to attack the frozen lump with a wooden spoon. Some mornings she was patient, would stir slowly, humming, letting the water do the work of melting. Most days she would beat at it, clanging the spoon against the side of the pitcher like an imprecise percussionist.

Thirty years later I walk the aisles of Whole Foods or the local co-op, choose a carton of not-from-concentrate, organically grown orange juice, fortified with calcium. Somewhere in an upper cupboard there is a pitcher I never use, maybe a wedding gift made of shatterproof Williams-Sonoma glass with a BPA-free lid. In the mornings before daycare, I pour a cup of juice for my daughter, who has never seen a woman try to make one thing into a close approximation of another.

“Don’t come in the kitchen,” my mother warned me. Her duty was to keep my stocking feet safe from slivers and to get me out of her way so she could begin filling a dustpan with chunks of glass so wet and clear they could have been icicles. I don’t think she cried, although if she had I wouldn’t have blamed her. A glass of orange juice—that’s all she wanted. But my mother always seemed to make things harder than they needed to be.


Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised by her mother in Minnesota.  Her work has been awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant and her memoir-in-progress was a finalist for the Bakeless Literary Prize in Creative Nonfiction. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter. See more at http://anikafajardo.com.


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This is beautiful story. I got the link of your post on LLN on facebook. The last sentence struck a chord with me..."my mother always seemed to make things harder than they needed to be." From what you described-- she was an immigrant from Colombia who was now a single mother. That is huge and super hard- yet, she had things somewhat taken care of- I admire that. Culture shock is huge for immigrants in a new country. Much props to your mom- she is the reason why you are so fierce today.
Cada creación literaria que tu presentas es para mi un viaje profundo en el tiempo y el espacio... Es una percepcion de hechos comunes de la vida, pero vistos con realidad magica, que hace que la vida se llene de hechos y recuerdos imborrables.
"...the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" . Eleanor Roosevelt.
I like the way it ends on the shards of glass, and stockinged feet.
Thanks for this packed essay. This is one I'll print and re-read again and again - Beautiful.
This brought back such vivid memories for me, memories of my mom making juice the same way to insure that it was healthy. This is a wonderful essay, particularly the ending about making things harder than they should be--i wonder, in this fast paced world, if things have not become harder than they should be.
Thanks for sharing your incredible talents Anika- I love the way you write and the images it creates in my mind. I love learning new things about your childhood. Sometimes I think I know so much about you, because I was there, at that day care, waiting for you to arrive, but of course, you weren't going to tell me about your mom making oj that morning...we talked about other things. So to read this now, and to know how it plays out in your current life, with your current daughter, it is just very beautiful, touching and real. Beautiful, vivid story!
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