Blueberry Pickin’

As children, we begin to make associations between each season and its traditions. For many of us, spring is a time we remember picking flowers for our loved ones; summer is filled with memories of water play and sunny days; fall holds the memories of choosing pumpkins and picking apples; and winter is a time those of us in the north remember playing in the snow.

For me, some of my best summer memories are from the berry patch. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red raspberries- we lived in an area where we had easy access to all of them. In fact, within walking distance of my grandparents’ farm was a very large strawberry patch, and a blueberry patch so extensive I’m not sure I ever reached its limits in all the years we spent picking there. There’s no end to the stories I could tell from strawberry picking- like the time my mom went to pick dressed as an old lady because she was convinced that the elder clientele were directed to the most bountiful areas of the patch. And the much less amusing time she spent bent over the berry bushes in the hot sun for so long that she had a sunburn that blistered between the line of her shirt and shorts.

But my fondest memories are from picking blueberries. The couple who owned the blueberry patch across the road from my grandparents’ farm were so sweet, and would deliver patrons to the best part of the berry patch via golf carts. Mom would always tell us she was going to have us weighed both before picking and after so she knew how many berries we’d eaten so we could pay for them (clearly she never did). Regardless, we would always sneak a couple, because…blueberries.

In the years since my grandparents have both passed away, the family farm remains, and a high school classmate of mine has built a home where the cherry trees once stood next to the blueberry patch. A high school classmate of Ryan’s (and a former coworker of mine, from my first job as a convenience store clerk when I was 15) lives next to her. It’s funny how things work out when you get older- passing acquaintances become forever enmeshed in our past, somehow making them an integral part of who we are.

I don’t think I’ve picked blueberries since the summer before I started college, a decade and a half ago, though I stop often at the patch near our house and buy the already-picked ones. For a long time, I couldn’t find time between school, work, chores, and life. Then it was because I had three babies in three years and that was a lot to manage. But a couple of weeks ago I finally decided it was time. The boys and I got up early on a Wednesday morning and headed off to the berry patch. I was not optimistic that we’d have a positive experience, but I really wanted to go and pass on the nostalgia that I tend to associate with these summer traditions, so we did it anyway.

Man, did I underestimate my kids (not the first time, folks, and certainly won’t be the last). Armed with a one-gallon ice cream bucket (for me) and three half-gallon buckets, my boys and I hit the blueberry bushes. For one solid hour, my friends, my three boys and I picked berries, and sang songs, and laughed, and there was not one fight or negative word the entire time. They listened, they followed directions, they didn’t wander off- not even my wild child. That hour was probably the single most peaceful block of time in our entire summer, and it resulted in two and a half gallons of blueberries, which have since been frozen, turned into blueberry muffins, baked into blueberry scones and eaten by the handful. One of my brothers has a favorite blueberry cake that I usually make only once a year (my oldest son asked if that meant it’s a “seasonal item”) that we may make again with our bounty.

In the end, we left with probably way more berries than we really needed, but they’ll last us past the season. And so will the memories.

xoxo,

~d

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Things left unsaid

My second grade teacher nicknamed me “Chatterbox.” I’m sure I don’t need to explain that one. Some things, apparently, never change.

However, despite my ability to move my mouth constantly and chatter incessantly about very little of consequence, I find it hard to say the important words out loud.

We’re driving back north after a weekend with our families. We spent time at the races, met a brand-spanking-new nephew, loved on our other nieces and nephew, met another- less new but still very tiny- cousin, and had an afternoon of farm exploring. We talked, we laughed, we enjoyed two full consecutive days of warmth and sunshine. It was a wonderful, fulfilling weekend. All three boys- and the dog- are snoring in the backseat.

Yet somehow I’m finding myself shooting off text after text on our way home to say all the things I didn’t say while we were there. The “I forgot to mention…” or “I never asked you about…” or, “here’s a story I wanted to tell you but didn’t get the chance,” peppered with the occasional, “Oh, crap, I think we left…(insert someone’s unaccounted for personal item) at your house.”

Two weeks later, on our drive home, I’m reflecting on all of this, plus another weekend of running into old friends and classmates I haven’t seen in, erm, well over a decade (closer to two, actually, but let’s not dwell on that) and how Bon Jovi himself once said “who says you can’t go home?” And, well, who can argue with Bon Jovi?

Ryan has teased me in the past about my ability to spend all weekend at home and continue chatting with my mom for the whole two hour drive home. He’s not wrong. In fact, often our conversation flows from the weekend for weeks without pause- at any time of day or night. (As evidenced by the fact that we were still exchanging texts last night well after midnight.)

I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder and actual physical connection fortifies bonds that phone calls and text messages can’t touch. It’s such a gift- particularly as a parent- to be able to be able to keep in contact via text,(I don’t know how my mom carried on telephone conversations when we were kids if I was anything like my kids are. See chatterbox, above. I can barely call to make a dentist appointment, never mind catching up with far-away family) but you just can’t replace the gift of being in the same room as those you love. That leaves the opportunity to convey everything one may want to say, without having the actual conversation. “Miles don’t matter. This moment is important. I love you. I’m here.”

But then…

some things are better left unsaid.

xoxo,

~d