The 'fellow' in question was my oldest maternal uncle, and this past month marked a year that he has been gone. His last name was Jolly, and kindness, love and wit shone from his eyes as well as his through his actions. As fate would have it, at the beginning of this year one of my aunts passed, followed by her husband a mere two weeks later. The loss of three Jollys within a year has left a wide, gaping hole in our family's fabric. The Jolly family embodied hospitality and an inclusiveness of people the likes of which we will probably never see again.
It was extraordinary: people would come for a meal, and stay for a month. Every hurting, sad, temporarily lost child has, at one point or another, taken refuge in the Jolly household for months even when their families were just one city over. We still marvel at the capacity of a two room apartment to expand and accommodate as many people as it did. How my aunts managed to feed three meals to as many as fifteen people on a daily basis out of a kitchen that is smaller than most closets still baffles me.
But what I remember most is the joy. So much laughter that we ended up with aching sides most days. Silly games and pointless arguments. Bollywood music both new and classic demanded choreographed dances that the older cousins taught, and we younger cousins obliged. Beautiful, clear voices singing as often as they could. It was magical. Sometimes I think that it's just the hazy shimmer of a lost time that lends that sheen to my memories. And then I talk to another cousin, or the friend of a cousin thrice-removed, and we all remember it the same way, because that is how it was.
Which means that it is possible to have limited resources, and still spread unlimited joy. What it looks like to be so completely free of judgement that the five children who had the unbelievable good fortune to be raised in that home are the most loving, generous, kind-hearted and joyful people I know. We all, in some way, carry the Jolly legacy because we were impacted by it, and loved unconditionally. With Jolly Good Jams, we hope that you will spread a little joy, a little love and a little hope of your own each day. We could all use some of that, especially right now.
Wife, mother, baker, jam maker, hug dispenser, reader.