Blueberry Haven

20140622_104612Fat raindrops smacked the windshield, and Scott turned on the wipers.  Ahead, a church billboard warned us that the only true wisdom came from God. “We timed that perfectly.”

“And it was the most fun we’ve had as a family in ages.” I peeled my ball cap back and wiped the sweat off my face.

Caroline stopped playing Subway Surfers long enough to disagree. “Ugh. No it wasn’t. We nearly got hit by lightning.” Sam was entrenched in Frozen, or he would have seconded her opinion.

Scott and I exchanged a look. Pick your battles. We had measured that storm impeccably, even leaving ourselves time to pay for our blueberries and transfer them from the U-Pick buckets into gallon bags before the sky opened.

Last weekend, when we visited Ohio, I yearned for the rural summers of my childhood, filled with pick-your-own strawberries in June and tramp-to-find-‘em blackberries in July. I wanted to stay home and can with my mother, to make jellies and jams for the county fair. I was even willing, as long as it was only in theory, to help in her garden.

But Thomas Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again. Or I can’t, anyway. Mom’s house isn’t just about food. It’s about the creek, the field, and the sky unsullied by city lights. Me, I no longer trust freshwater swimming; I flinch and smack at even harmless bugs; and I hesitate to sit on bare earth. All of those things, swimming at the creek, catching lighting bugs and mosquito bites in the backyard, and throwing myself face up into the newly mown grass are etched in my childhood. These days, I prefer swimming pools over even the Gulf of Mexico. Swimming holes make me think of brain-eating, flesh-devouring bacteria.

No. I don’t want the country for my own again. What I really want is slices of country life that I can walk into and out of at will. The visits home. The trips to pick berries with my kids.

I worried when we moved south, because the nearest pumpkin patch is nearly an hour in one direction, the nearest apple orchard is over an hour in another, and strawberry farmers are few. But we have found these places where I can re-create my childhood in neatly cropped photographic images. Now we have added one more: a blueberry field.

Even the heat cooperated yesterday, the temperature dropping as the breeze picked up and thunder grew 20140622_104651_resizednearer. We got four gallons of blueberries that should have transformed into sixteen quarts when Scott and I froze them this evening. They only made twelve, but Blueberry Haven’s owner wasn’t doing any funny math. We ate a gallon on the way home. Nobody wanted lunch until it was almost time for supper.

And Caroline’s protests aside, we celebrated a peaceful morning. Sam didn’t need any time-outs, and the siblings didn’t fight. Indeed, they formed an anti-parent car-hood-sitting alliance while Scott and I doggedly picked for those last fifteen minutes. We’re pretty sure they would have staged a full-fledged sit-in if we hadn’t filled our buckets when we did.

“I think we should go on a date out here,” Scott told me. “Leave these two at home.”

“I’m game. But we’ll let them find out later. Right now, they’ve forgotten we exist for the electronics.”

“No we haven’t,” said Caroline. “We’re just picking our battles.”

Touché, my dear. Maybe I’ll make you come pick next time, after all.



About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Blueberry Haven — 34 Comments

  1. I loved the way you talked about your childhood and how now you want to pick and choose the memories you recreate, I hanker for a pool more than a lake, ocean or sandy beach these days myself.

    You know you can visit Bethlehem anytime you want, we’ll take all of you to the pumpkin patch.

    and “picking your battles” is a mantra I’ve embraced and am working hard to excel at.
    My sons are smarter than I am most days and while I accept this fact, I also know I’m still the mom and get a say. I pick the battlefields I know will guarantee a win for me these days. My spotty victories.

    Love the pictures! Your children make me smile.
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    • Yay! So glad you like the photos! God I’d love to see your pumpkin patch. There’s nothing like one of those in autumn. The one down here is good, but it feels like summer when we go.

  2. I love Caroline already. Smart kid. And the way you’ve described your childhood makes me wish for a similar one I never had, growing up in the city. My favorite line: “What I really want is slices of country life that I can walk into and out of at will.” Me, too.
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    • I think my kids will be more like that — wanting the country in manageable doses. And thank you for the compliment. Caroline is utterly brilliant! (no, no I’m not biased at alllll)

  3. This is a lovely entry. I enjoyed your childhood memories and how they seemed to fit seamlessly with your own family’s outing. What a perfect way to spend the day with your family. Enjoy your children while they’re young – believe me – the time goes by so fast and before you know it, they’ll be adults, but you’ll have these lovely memories forever. Nice work!
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    • Doesn’t it, though? It was even undisturbed enough that were we younger, more athletic, and stupider, we could make it into something really erotic. Sadly, I’d have to get really close to the ground for that, and we both fear the fire ants and sticks.

  4. Oh lordy, that’s some beautiful writing right there. From the “Fat raindrops on the windshield” to “Mom’s house isn’t just about food. It’s about the creek, the field, and the sky unsullied by city lights,” you painted a picture that I stepped into. Spending our weekends in Maine returns me to that place you write about. It’s a thing of beauty.

    • Rural life is absolutely lovely, even when it’s sweaty. I just wish it looked the same on the inside as the outside. I also remember having to clean the cat hair off my pillow every night and the realization, when I moved to my first apartment, that it was possible to sleep in a bed that had no pet dander whatsoever.

  5. This was excellent. I am glad to see it isn’t just my kid who can complain about a family outing. Also, I know exactly what you mean about wanting slices of your childhood without going back to the whole thing. I know that feeling so well!
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    • I have asked myself what my kids will want back from their own childhoods, and I hope it’s these things. They were having fun until they noticed the thunderstorm …. and they went and sat on the HOOD of the car. No THAT isn’t just a giant metal thing begging for lightning. Screw the wheels honey, you’re on the outside, and a very inviting target, so stop looking at your Daddy and I cross-eyed.

  6. Jessie, I was so happy to see you here! I loved this little peek into your life. It made me remember my own country childhood. (And I have the same terror of swimming holes…) I’m way behind on reading all my blog subscriptions, and I’ve really missed yours. You have such an easy, uncontrived style, in your fiction and non-fiction both. I aspire to write like you someday.
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    • You totally gave me a happy! I’m also behind on my reading. SO fucking far behind. It’s for good reasons – the book thing is coming along here. But it’s frustrating that I’ve done all this work to build a community, a real writing community, an honest-to-God group of writing peers, and to have to prioritize the writing above reading with them and fostering those relationships.

    • Thanks Kristin :). I always worry when I’m doing nostalgia. I don’t want to go the “syrupy overwritten” route, but I shy away from outright humor in these posts, which is my usual magician’s wand to keep the reader from looking under the hat where I’m making a hash of things.

  7. I felt like I was right there with you. Great write, Jessie. You brought back my own memories of sitting under the blueberry bush, crying because I was too hot to move.
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    • Oh no! You were Caroline, except Caroline was furious and stalked off and then shouted at us from the hood of the car. The really funny thing is that while I want to go back and comfort the child you, I am totally still vexed at my own kid!

    • Thanks, Jen! There’s something about growing up rural that is impossible to explain to people who haven’t done it. Hell, there’s stuff I’ve forgotten already as an adult that surprises me when I go home to visit.

  8. You’re from Ohio? Me too! Cleveland area. I live in New Jersey now, so I feel the same way. There are things I want to recreate for my kids that I enjoyed in my childhood, but also so many new traditions and memories to make here. Fall is a big one around here. We do apple picking, pick your own pumpkins, Halloween is a whole different ball game here and come Christmastime, we cut down our own tree. I enjoy that mix of the two lives.
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    • I think we met up at non-con a couple of years ago and talked about our Ohio pasts! I’m from the Cincy area, as is my husband (though we met in grad school in Kentucky). Scott’s got a sister up around Cleveland. Halloween is my favorite holiday ever. The year that Scott and some friends entertained all our kids so I could carve five pumpkins stands out as one of my favorites ever.

      • Jessie, I definitely remember hanging out with you at NonCon, but I forgot that you were from Ohio too! Ohio soul sistas! 😉 I’ll bet you had muscles of steel after you carved 5 pumpkins. lol Congratulations on Editors Pick!
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  9. I’m not sure I ever picked berries, except from the raspberry bushes my father planted, but your childhood memories nevertheless evoked my childhood. I especially liked ” … we have found these places where I can re-create my childhood in neatly cropped photographic images.” And I loved Caroline’s comeback.
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    • Caroline is a quick witted kid. Sometimes, her comebacks are accidental echoes of something she’s heard us say. I’m sure she didn’t noticed the exchanged look so much as she remembered the time I had to explain what “pick your battles” meant and suddenly applied it to her own situation and articulated it. She’s equally likely to blurt it out without context, which makes for awesome humor. Echolalia dogs her – it can be embarrassing and frustrating, but sometimes, it makes for real humor, and she’s got a good sense of humor and doesn’t mind laughing at herself. (Like the time she faceplanted, broke two teeth, and sat in Starbucks wailing “I wish I’d lost a limb instead!” while I tried to get her to the car. When I asked her why she had chosen this particular chant, later, she showed it to me in the book she was reading. Then laughed her head off when I said it would have hurt a lot more if she’d accidentally ripped off her own arm.)

  10. I love this! I grew up in the burbs but every summer, we’d go on vacation to the Sacramento delta and I remember taking the rubber dingy to pick wild blackberries. I have the fondest memories of that, even though there were lots of scary spiders and I always got scratched.
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    • Ha! I’m busy this morning digging a blackberry thorn (collected on the blueberry picking expedition) out of my left index finger. I’ve been working on it four days now. Stubborn and ouchie. But totally worthwhile. I would LOVE to ride in a rubber dinghy some day!!!

  11. I can relate to your desire to share the best of your childhood with your kids. Apple picking, homemade Holloween costumes and finding my favorite children’s books online or at thrift stores are just a few of my compulsions. It’s a battle worth waging. Your kids will always remember these experiences, and they’ll carry within them the caring that accompanied each outing.

        • Well, not that time, anyhow LOL. My kids have learned to swear responsibly from me. And I just had a long and thoughtful conversation about the anxiety ridden Caroline about how it’s OK to look at an overwhelming situation and think, “Fuck it”. She seemed to feel empowered.

          • I tell my son I know I can’t control what he says when he is among is friends, but dropping the f bomb in a job interview, without having considered the pros and cons, is not using profanity to its best advantage. I think using a swear to cut a stressful situation down to size can be a valid tool for your daughter. “Fuck it” is as powerful as mantras get. I wish your Caroline the very best.

            • Ahaha! You just reminded me of the meme with the job interview candidate whose worst flaw is honesty. The interviewer says, “I don’t think honesty is a flaw” and the candidate replies, “I don’t care what the fuck you think”