Peach Run postIn October 2013, I mentioned my family’s invented tradition of the Annual Peach Run in my post, Ponding Water. Yesterday, the Peach Run happened again.

Pennsylvanians are into canning, freezing, jelling, and basically, savoring the tastes of summer all year long. From tomatoes, tomato sauces, pickles, horseradish, and homemade jelly made from red and black raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, and even elderberries (if your mom has a guarded list of wild elderberry growing locations), summertime is a production line for food storage. High ranking on the list are the peaches for jelly, canning, and pies. The tricky part is that we don’t get many peaches around here, so we had to invent affordable ways of bringing them in.

When I was a kid, a friend of my Dad’s would drive up from South Carolina every year and bring Carolina or even Georgia peaches with him for my mom. But with less and less remaining family here, his trips didn’t always fall in peach season. Thus, the Peach Run was born, a zany, multi-state, generational road trip for peaches.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., we started getting peaches from my mom’s cousin, who owns a farm in Maryland. It was my job to rise early on a Saturday (for a two-job-working second-shifter, this was tough), drive to Maryland to get a carload of peaches to supply my mom, grandpap, two aunts and two cousins, then drive to Breezewood in Pennsylvania where I’d meet my sister for lunch, on Mom. After stuffing ourselves with pizza, we’d carefully transfer the peaches (under the watchful eye of all passersby who seemed to find this fascinating) from my car to hers, and then she’d drive them the four hours across the PA Turnpike to Pittsburgh. Despite getting up while it was still dark out after an 18-hour workday, my job was not as hard as my sister’s.

The Western half of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is full of twists and turns. It’s mountainous and full of potholes and road construction that prohibit the road from being level at any time. It’s not an easy drive on a normal day, let alone with a car full of delicate peaches. (I can tell you that the enchanting aroma of fresh peaches will stay in the car for a couple days.) But on that crazy road, with every pothole you hit, you hear my mom’s voice in your head, “Don’t bruise the peaches!”

Once home, the peaches are carefully unloaded, one at a time, and placed in the cool, dry basement on blue plastic liners. They’re placed “shoulders down,” or resting on the place where the stem grows, not touching one another, until Mom is ready to bake, can, and jelly them.

Peach Run postWhen I moved from D.C. eleven years ago, my mom started doing the Peach Run a little differently, making the round trip in a weekend and taking on a passenger. Peach Run passengers are chosen by age, elders first. Usually she took my Great Aunt Irene who wanted to visit the Maryland cousins. One year, my Mom took her sister along with her, which prompted my cousin and me to carry on an interstate Facebook conversation about the adventures and road stories our moms would craft. That was the year my aunt said, “Now I see why you only bring one passenger each year. I never understood why we couldn’t all ride along. But there’s no more room with all these peaches.”

Sometimes my mom took my Grandpap along. Last year, when Pap passed away, a Tennessee cousin stopped in Maryland and brought up a truckload on her way to the funeral. Pap would have loved it.

This year, Uncle Bob got the peaches near his place in Virginia and drove them to Hancock, Maryland, where my parents met up with him for the exchange. Thus, their basement is again full of peaches, and this year’s warm peach pie, frozen fresh and baked on Christmas Day will be a time-honored treat, as we gather around the table together to eat and share stories from the road.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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