Every autumn we pack up the kids and the grandparents in the "mommy-van" for an excursion to the orchard. It's a tradition that goes back over 25 years to when my parents used to take my brother and I apple picking at that very same orchard. I can't seem to pass by a tree in that particular set of fields without flashbacks of climbing up their centers in attempt to drop immature fruit on my immature brother's head or of shining up freshly picked gems on our sleeves before biting into them.

But it's not September today. Nor is it October. It is July, of course, and July is berry picking time.
I've not actually gone berry picking with the kids. The last time I went I was still counting years to my driver's license and my kid brother was diabolically plotting new ways to torture me. (Some things don't change, he's still twerp even if he is nearly a foot taller than me.) My soon-to-be-sister-in-law, however, has a favorite blueberry farm and a suggestion that we join her and her daughter on this summer's trip.

It's a good thing to play nice when you're adding members to the family, so I agreed. It was a small jaunt out to the berry patch - you ride from parking lot to trees on a big hay-ride type wagon (sans hay) pulled by a tractor. My daughter, the Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic, dubbed the tractor "Terence."

At the very first bush we reached I pointed a finger to a plumb, dark blue berry, "This is what you want to pick kids. Not purple even if it's your favorite color, Meg. Not green even though it's your favorite, Logan. Dark, deep blue." They nodded gravely and set about the task of filling their coffee cans to the brim. For the record - two small plastic coffee "cans" equated to roughly 2 1/4 pounds of blue berries.

It's been three full days since we went picking. We've eaten berries every night (Megan LOVES blueberries apparently, while Logan is a "in the fields only" berry kid.) We've made the most amazing blueberry coffee cake. We still have berries left.

The yield and baked goods, while delightful, are not the best part of our excursion. The blue-ribbon prize was the experience. No, not plucking berries from their branches, but the warm sun that made Megan's cheeks rosy pink as she worked diligently beside us. It was in the pride-filled grin on Logan's face as he held out his coffee can loaded with sweet fruit. It was in the marriage of "togetherness" and a beautiful day outdoors. It was in creating something to eat from scratch with something you, yourself picked -- topped only by when you create it with something you picked and you grew. (And since we've got tomato plants loaded with green fruit...that's only a matter of weeks away!)
These are the sorts of things I remember from my childhood. The ordinary things done outside the realm of our ordinary days. I sometimes wondered if this particular quirk (remembering the seemingly ordinary as extraordinary) was my own. My family took it's share of vacations - and I can tell you where we went but few specific details from most of those trips. The tradition type events - the seemingly mundane - those are the squares of my fond-memory patchwork quilt. My brother, unknowingly perhaps, offered his reassurance that my desire to give the kids the same wasn't unrealistic.
He watched his niece and nephew giggle over their harvest and lunge back into the branches greedily to snag even more. He smiled a little and looked at me over the rim of his sunglasses. "Do you remember when Mom used to take us to the park to pick the wild berries? That was fun wasn't it? That was summer. That's why I'm glad we could come today."
And with that I knew that this was exactly the sort of thing childhood memories are made of.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

You are so right. What do I remember from my childhood? My dad making homemade chili and pizza on Sundays and our yearly fall trips to a local farm that had THE BEST cinnamon donuts and an awesome pumpkin patch. It's the little things...

Sorry I haven't commented here in awhile - I've been lurking. I wanted to thank you for your comment on my blog - I am touched.