My son, Scott, and his wife, Janalyn, lived with us for a while this summer after graduation. His job didn’t start until September, and it gave us a chance to get to know Janalyn. Our life was quite a bit different from how she grew up. She had never canned food before, and she soon learned the joy of home canned fruits, vegetables, jams, and jellies. We told her whatever she picked from our big garden, she could can, and we would even provide the bottles. While Scott worked at a job to make some money for their move, Janalyn worked hard canning dozens of jars of jam and fruit. By the time they packed the truck to move to their new life on in New York City, they had a lot of wonderful homegrown food to take with them.
Recently, when we asked them what they wanted for Christmas, it was no surprise that Janalyn said she wanted a pressure canner of her own. We knew we couldn’t afford a new one of the quality we wanted for her, so we started looking for a nice used one. But she found one before we did. It was almost new and was about half price. The problem was, they had no car, and it was a couple of hours away by Light Rail and train.
Scott, wanting to buy the canner for a Christmas present for his wife, got off work a little early Friday evening and boarded the Light Rail. After a couple of transfers, he reached the train station and rode the train to the desired destination. True to his word, the man selling the canner was waiting. Scott bought the canner and then looked at the train schedule and found out he had an hour and a half before the return train would arrive. The station was closed, so he set the canner on the ground, leaned against it, and started reading a book. It wasn’t too long before he heard a strong, commanding voice. He looked up and saw two police officers standing at opposite sides of him, each about fifty feet away.
The officer spoke again. “Step away from the canner.”
Suddenly, Scott thought about the Boston Marathon bombing and realized what this Christmas gift looked like. He stood and did as he was told. After checking his identification, one of the officers, who knew a little bit about canning, asked Scott some questions. Finally, satisfied that Scott was buying the canner for the purpose he claimed, he was allowed to go back to his canner, open it, and turn it so the officers could see it was empty.
By this time a third officer had shown up, and not long after that the police commander arrived. This was more excitement than their little town had had in a while. Once everyone was satisfied that Scott was harmless, one of the officers informed him they also had the k-9 unit and the bomb squad ready and waiting not far away. The first officer apologized to Scott and said that their town had lost fourteen people in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center.
“Everyone is really vigilant now,” the officer said.
Scott said he didn’t mind. In fact, he was happy that they were so careful. The first two officers stayed with him until the train came. They even informed the conductor that Scott was okay and that his canner was okay, too. But Scott found that as he traveled, even though he left the lid off so everyone could see the canner was empty, no one trusted him. He sat at the back of the train and the Light Rail, and as people would come back and see the canner, they immediately went back to the front. Soon, no matter what he was riding, he had the whole back end to himself while the front was packed tight. He felt bad, and he understood how they felt, but he still had to get the canner home.
Eventually, he arrived at their little apartment, and Janalyn was there to greet him with a hug. He told her the story.
As he finished, he said, “I’m glad you like to can. But if we ever need a new pressure canner, maybe next time we’ll just order it on Amazon and have it delivered.”