Currant Jelly

“Verena!” Hans Kaspar called through the open door. Inside, he saw Verena and Katarina, the kitchen maid, making jelly. It bubbled in the copper kettle like liquid rubies.

Hearing his voice, Verena’s heart filled the sky. “I will be right back.” She handed the wooden spoon to Katarina. Hans Kaspar stood in the shade of the apple tree, a traveling bag over his shoulder.

“Come with me,” he said. “Now.” He reached for her hand and pulled her close.

“We’re in the middle of making jelly.”

“Jelly?” Hans Kaspar sighed in exasperation. “Verena.” he looked into her blue eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, and — JELLY?”

“Come help us. We’re about to pour it.”

Hans Kaspar followed her, ducking to escape a head-banging on the low lintel. He was useful. He was tall, strong enough to lift the copper kettle high and pour the boiling liquid into the jars.

When they were finished tying oiled paper to the top of each small jar, Hans Kaspar took Verena’s hand and led her outside.“I brought you something.” He held out a linen packet tied with string. “Open it.”


“Open it.”

Verena untied the string. Inside was a shift made of linen so fine she could almost see through it. It was edged in subtle cutwork that had come from Bruges. It laced up the back with a blue ribbon.

“Hans Kaspar. It’s beautiful. Where did you…?” Verena blushed.

“A customer paid me with that lace. I had the linen left from a shirt I made for someone or another.”

It was an intimate gift, saying many things that had not been spoken between them. Verena did not know what to think. He’d thought of her, imagined her wearing this, made it. She held the fine linen to her cheek, feeling deeply happy and deeply confused at the same time.

He took her hand and held it to his chest. “Come with me now, Verena. There’s a meeting in the forest, half a dozen or so people who are also interested in going America. It won’t be long. Then we can go to my rooms.”

Verena’s heart sank. Hans Kaspar had been gone for six months. He’d traveled with his brothers, Othmar and Kleinhans, to help them settle in the Alsace, the first stepping stone to their great plan of life in America. They planned to emigrate within the year. America was Hans Kaspar’s obsession, but he was not ready, not financially, and not yet settled in his heart, so he had come home. Verena let go of his hand.


“I’ll see you tomorrow, Hans Kaspar, if you come by, and I am home.” She handed him the shift and turned toward the house.

“Verena, you are unfair,” he called after her, grabbing her arm. “I do not say I’m going to America, but I have pamphlets and letters for those who are. And this is yours.” He put the package back into in her hands.

She shook her arm loose from his grip, but she took the linen blouse with her.


Meanwhile, our high school band — which is a champion band — is practicing marching and playing at the same time. They’re getting ready for the Veteran’s Day parade. In a small town like this, when someone dies overseas in a war, it’s a sizable percentage of the community. So far, the town has lost two young people in the action in the Middle East. There is a park dedicated to them. It’s a tiny park, but it has a beautiful monument and a small walking trail. One of the two is Faith Hinkley, for whom the park is named, and the other is Glen Martinez, whose parents live on the other side of the golf course from me. I’ve met and chatted with his father who was first wanting me and the dogs to get off his road, and then realized I’m a nice lady with nice dogs. I don’t say that gingerly.


8 thoughts on “Currant Jelly

  1. If that is an except of your planned book about the Schneebelis, let me know when it is published. I can already see it as a Swiss film in the Franz Schnyder style. It sounds so olde worlde Swiss, love it.

    • It’s the opening. I’m glad you like it! I’m Olde Worlde Swiss, I guess. 😉 I’m reading a book now that has a chapter about the the Bernese Taufers and their expulsion from Switzerland. Really, Bern was even meaner to them than was Zürich and it was mean enough. But even where they went for “sanctuary” in the Alsace was pretty bad. One of them has written that they have “less freedom even than the Jews” because, in addition to paying protection money, they are not allowed to practice their trades, only to farm.

      • It’s a very old Swiss song sung in advanced Swiss German about Vreneli who lives in Guggisberg. It just seemed to suit the theme. I understand it, but even I have problems. It’s all about dying of worry because Vreni is in love with Joggeli on the other side of the mountain or something like that.

      • That Joggeli… Nothing worse than being lovesick. I love the sound and the pictures. 🙂 There’s a Verenli in my story. She’s just a little girl, though, the daughter of the two main characters one of whom, of course, is Verena. The “real-life” behind the names is that my male ancestor married Verena Blickenstorfer and she died in childbirth. The child came to America as a middle-aged man. His second wife, the Verena in this chapter, he married later an they had four kids. She and the youngest died on the voyage. It’s funny because for a shot time I had a Swiss boyfriend named Blickisdorf… Incest, I guess.

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