Edible relics: my mother's pickles

Sr. Karen Jean Zielinski with her parents, Loretta and John Zielinski (Provided photo)

The pickles are tucked on the back lower left shelf of my refrigerator. I can do nothing with them. I cannot open the jar, nor can I eat them. And Loretta Zielinski made good pickles.

My mother made the jar of homemade dill pickles the week before she died. I took the pickles then, many years ago. My sister, brother and I were cleaning out my mom's house. We had pretty much gone through the entire house, packing up furniture and other items, preparing for her move from her beloved Michigan to Ohio, close to my Franciscan motherhouse. My dad, John Zielinski, had died in 2001, two years before.

It was nine days before she was to move to Ohio, and she passed away at her home in 2003. After mom's funeral, we were at the house finishing up the final details of emptying the house, which was already put up for sale.

My sister, Judy, and I were in the kitchen. Judy was the baker, and took mom's great mixer and some recipes. As I was cleaning out the refrigerator, I found the recently made pickles and decided to take them.

My brother, Jim, took the package of her homemade pierogi (Polish dumplings) from the freezer. I placed her pickles in my refrigerator and have not opened them for years. My brother put his pierogi in his freezer. He did not touch them for years.

When my parents died, friends told me that as part of the grieving process, I should take an article of clothing, a book, or anything that they had used or touched. I took an Army photo of my dad, John Zielinski, and his handwritten list of people on his prayer list.

When my mom died, I took a handwritten recipe for "klops" or Polish meatballs, a cardigan sweater, and her jar of pickles. I have made her klops many times, but they never tasted quite the way my mom's did. Her sweater still hangs on the back of my bedroom door; I have worn it a few times. I put the pickles from 2003 in my refrigerator.

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