My eldest was born on June 26 and from an early age loved to pick the strawberries that ripened at the time of his birthday. For his very first birthday, we actually invited friends and had a strawberry-themed soiree.
When my second child was 9 months old, I discovered I was pregnant again. I had had plans to take the two boys strawberry picking and then I did the test. Once I realized I would soon be the parent of a three year old, one year old and new baby, taking two toddlers to mash red berries into their clothes felt like a piece of cake, and a necessary stretch: I was going to have to learn the art of multitasking in a big way, and I might as well start right away, crouched down in rows of straw, inhaling the candy-sweet smell.
Picking strawberries has always had a child theme in my lfie: I recall being a child and being left with my sister in a patch to pick while my mom picked up our other sister. I remember that it was hot work.
My own kids don't usually balk at strawberry picking: by June, the idea of unlimited, accessible fresh fruit has great appeal, and strawberries fill a pail quite quickly, as compared to, say, blueberries. My daughter came with us a couple of weeks ago when the news spread that the fields were open. Today, I tried to persuade the eldest to pick with me -- I only wanted enough to make jam -- but he had plans with a friend to work out at the gym. He said he did want to pick, but another day. And maybe that day will come and maybe the berries will be done.
Either way, he's not a kid anymore anyhow. But alone in the field, under a gentle rain this afternoon, I watched and listened to other moms with their small people. I know there are umpteen studies that talk about the calming effects of being in nature, but I suspect there is something more about picking berries en famille. Because every mother I saw and heard had kids who were running and picking, making observations and needing to go pee -- and every mom spoke calmly and patiently to her offspring.
It made me feel very glad. Glad to be part of a group who showed their kids where food comes from. Glad to see moms with better skills than mine. Glad to listen to the sounds of small voices discovering the perfect berry. Glad to have big kids who still, gym date notwithstanding, don't mind coming along. Glad to connect with the land and to pick food and later to preserve it so that even as the seasons change, there will still be summer sunshine and gentle warm rain by the delicious spoonful.