Yesterday afternoon, I picked blackberries for the first time since being a child. I’m amazed at how...almost meditative, it was. I picked for over an hour, letting my mind wander back to my childhood.
“Why don’t you go pick blackberries?” was often times the response of my mother, concerning the end of summer boredom. I can remember, so clearly, picking blackberries with my little brother Dustin and our cousin Monica. We were close, all two years apart, and we had fun. So much fun. We did what kids were supposed to do. Play outside, fight, argue, get in trouble, build forts and come home dirty just in time for dinner. We would pick and pick, until our fingers were purple, before bringing our loot inside to see if it was enough for a cobbler. Eating just as many as we picked I’m sure. Berry stained and bleeding, we would stand in the kitchen with our humble offerings, hoping that we would hear the sweet words of victory spoken by my mother, “Yep, that’s enough guys. Come back in an hour.” An hour takes forever when you’re that age, but somehow, we managed. Whether it was a water fight, mud pie contest, or a game of hide and seek, we kept busy. And then finally, time to savor the efforts of our labor: the warm, sweet goodness of a blackberry cobbler. My mom would make as many cobblers as we could pick the berries for. Once, three in one day! They were so good. Nothing could beat having fresh blackberry cobbler for dinner while laying in a sea of blankets on the living room floor, the front door open letting the warm breeze blow past. The only light being the comforting red glow of the setting summer sun and the television entertaining us with reruns of Mr. Ed, Lassie and My Three Sons on Nick at Night.
Those, truly were the days. Not a care in the world. Our only job, having fun. I miss those days. I miss the three of us, being together.
My blackberry picking has been perfected over the years. A colander works much better than the makeshift bowl of my shirt. And I now have this grown up dexterity that allows me to pick the biggest and ripest berries in one piece, rather than smashing them into a pool of juice and seeds in my hands. My fearless desire to get the best berries, however, has not changed. I did find myself in a pretty precarious situation when one blackberry vine, that I had hooked onto another blackberry vine (to gain access to the previously mentioned best berries of course) sprung loose and tangled up in my hair and tank top. I had to hunker down there, on one knee, bent over at a ninety degree angle (both hands still full of prime berries I was unwilling to drop) until my mom heard me shouting and came to my rescue. Zipper could learn a few things from Lassie, as her nonstop yapping and dancing around didn’t do much to remedy the situation. I didn’t remember picking berries to be this dangerous when I was a kid. I picked for a while longer, feeling the memories of my childhood warm my heart, and allowing a tear of mourning for days gone by to slide down my cheek.
Finally, colander in hand and again bleeding, I make my way into the kitchen (only this time decades later and alone) to ask my mom if I had enough.
I had warm blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream, with my mom, for breakfast.