It’s strawberry picking season and the fields are loaded with big, red, juicy berries. We always go to the same farm. It’s tradition. We target a cloudy morning before 10 to minimize the misery index. Those career fruit pickers, you gotta respect them. This job isn’t for the faint of heart and the pay stinks.
We do it for fun though. We pick around 30 pounds of berries and then wash and slice and cook and freeze for, pretty much, a full day. The resulting rows of bright red jam that lines the countertop, it’s picture perfect.
When I pick berries, my mind wanders. I find myself listening in to the conversations around me. Always, and I do mean always, there’s a bunch of moms and kids picking nearby and strawberry picking with young children, it’s a wild adventure.
This year, it was little redhead Henry, his big sister and their mama who captured my attention. We all arrived about the same time. That’s how we ended up in rows near each other. Little Henry looked about 4. His mama told her kiddos to pick the red berries, the ones without brown decay or bird beak burrowed holes. She showed them a berry that was only partially ripe and explained how they were looking for the ones that were red all over. She no sooner squatted in position than little Henry started tossing berries down the row. Maybe they were berries that didn’t qualify as worthy of a place in his take home box. I don’t know. I’ve never understood the mind of a 4 year old boy, but somehow, berry tossing made sense to Henry or at least felt fun.
Calmly, Henry’s mama redirected him. “Henry, we don’t throw berries, we pick them and put them in our box, please.” About 2 seconds later, Henry wandered over to the next row and randomly started picking berries off another lady’s assigned patch. Thankfully, she was a grandma, compassionate regarding the hazards of strawberry picking with pre-schoolers. Henry’s mama intervened again. “Henry, you’re going to have to give your berries to that lady if you keep picking in her row. Come over here by us and we’ll pick berries together to take home.”
Henry meandered closer to his big sister and started eating every berry he picked. Mom noticed after she glanced up at him, having had a few uninterrupted moments to pick berries herself. “Henry, how about if we wait to eat the berries until we go home and wash them. Let’s put berries in our box instead.” And this routine continued on loop. Throwing. Wandering. Eating. Meanwhile, Henry’s bigger sister, squatted over the berries focused on contributing to the family’s take-home box. Thank heavens for big sisters!
The little girl picking on the row to our opposite side was adventuring with her mama and grandparents. This little princess was a whiner and that is a scenario I’m intimately acquainted with. Every few seconds she’d narrate her feelings.
“This is too hard.”
“I want to go home.”
Her Mama wanted a picture, one where everybody smiles for about a half a second to remember the morning the way she imagined it rather than the way it actually is. But Little Princess isn’t having it and Papa’s answer to their strawberry picking “FAIL” is predictable.
“Want me to take you to the car and we’ll have some candy, honey?”