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Thoughts

Section XXII-Of Jam and Mushrooms

I am discovering that Bag End, as long as it has Sam, will continue just fine whether or not I am here. Needed a change from sifting through papers so went in search of Sam. Ended up spending the last few days helping him check what was left of the food that had been laid up in the fall. Sam's Mum, Mrs. Gamgee, has taken care of this since before I can remember. I suspect Uncle Bilbo made the bargain. Mrs. Gamgee lays up all the food from both gardens, theirs' and Bag End's, that isn't eaten fresh. They haven't much storage space at #3 Bagshot Row, so most of it is kept at Bag End. For taking care of this monstrous job, by my way of thinking, the Baggins and Gamgees share the storage through the winter. There always seems to be enough and to spare with no one feeling any want.

One summer visiting Bag End, years before it became my home, I was just off for a walk and noticed young Sam struggling out the gate with a bucket of berries seeming to be almost as big as he was. When asked where he was headed he awkwardly lifted the bucket and told me his Mum was making jam. My path led that way so I offered to carry it for him. Down at the Gamgees', Mrs. Gamgee was indeed making blackberry jam. It was a warm day and what with her standing over the cooking fire I imagined it must be a miserable job. I couldn't keep myself from asking why she went to all the trouble. She gave me a warm smile. She hadn't yet poured the honey, Old Winyards and berries into the kettle so she paused in her task long enough to prepare me a slice of bread with some jam she had finished a few days before. I accepted the generous morsel thanking her and looked at her questioningly. She just nodded her head at me.

I looked at the bread slathered with jam and momentarily back at Mrs. Gamgee. She gave me an encouraging smile. I took a bite still curious at where this was all going. I didn't even have time to blink as I instantly understood. The bread, of course, was fresh and I'm sure delicious but suddenly it seemed only a means to present the delectable spread atop it. Though I was speechless, it seems my face expressed clearly enough my rapt appreciation. Mrs. Gamgee gave me a slight, knowing smile and immediately turned back to her work. The lesson had been skillfully taught with concise clarity.

With Sam's help, I couldn't resist nipping another small chunk of bread with more of her luscious jam. I was sure I was being quite clever, though in the back of my mind, I believed she knew. Her back was turned to us, as she was preparing things at the hearth. I slipped the treat behind my back and carefully made my way to the door winking at Sam on my way. I thanked Mrs. Gamgee again for her kindness. Without turning she gently replied, "You are most welcome Master Frodo. And why don't you take another slice of bread and jam so you have one for each hand." I blushed but didn't refuse her offer. She half turned and smiled warmly, "Remember, between things pinched or freely given, the freely given is always sweeter." I bobbed my head and smiled back, "I'll remember Mrs. Gamgee." As I left that day, I couldn't resist stopping long enough to drop a kiss on her cheek as I thanked her. She shooed me away with the chastisement that I was getting in her way, but the severity was lost in her charming blush and quick smile.

Remembering that day now, it wasn't much after my run in with Farmer Maggot over his mushrooms. I much preferred the gentle lessons of Mrs. Gamgee.