Three Kid Circus : Blackberry Days

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Blackberry Days

My married home is a mere seven miles from my childhood home. While navigating the country roads that link my present with my past, memories flow over and around me.

The blanket of fog still rests lightly on the West County ridges. The blackberry bushes along the roadside are heavy with berries. For the first time in a week, I am alone. I turn off the radio and open the window to enjoy the silence and the moist, cool air. Here and there along the roadside, I pass local families in colorful outfits, buckets swinging from berry stained fingers. Happy shouts of discovery echo in my ears. "Look at the size of this one! It's the biggest berry ever!"

It's been years since I stood on tiptoe, carefully reaching past thorns and scratchy leaves to capture the fattest, juiciest berry on the bush. The thought of sun-warmed berry, bursting on my tongue banishes all cynical thoughts. One of life's simplest pleasures, there for the picking in a roadside ditch.

I want to wear a red kerchief over my hair. I want to carry a white pail and feel the early morning mist. I want to revel in the smell of the earth, and see my fingertips turn purple. I want to watch the faces of my children when they eat a sour berry by mistake. I feel the laughter welling up inside me, imagining puckered faces and crinkled noses.

Of course, the worried mom in me wonders if the berries have been tainted with pesticides. We used to give a cursory, dirt removing blow and pop over-ripe berries into our mouths right there on the side of the road. I don't know if I could allow my children to do that. Could I?

After arriving at my parents' house, I discover that the blackberry bushes that drape over the top of their fence are ridiculous with fruit. I can let go of my worries and my children can discover the quiet joy of berries, fresh off the vine. I am wrapped in contentment.

Although we quantify our lives with achievements and important dates, the warm berries and the cold noses are the true measure of our lives. That smooth beach rock kept on a windowsill, the autumn leaves pressed in a book, these are the small souvenirs of a life lived well.