On Friday night, I received a text from my sister. It read, “I just needed to write tonight. So here it goes!”
Not knowing what to expect, I eagerly read what she sent.
A summer ritual in my family was the vegetable garden. My grandmother would start early in the spring, because she wanted tomatoes by the 4th of July. She also wanted to plant a second garden on the 4th. There was always a loud discussion prior to our holiday meal about planting a second garden, just when the first one was coming in. My grandmother always got her way, and she stayed busy preserving fresh garden items until late in the fall.
On the 4th, we usually went on our first trip blackberry picking. Never been? Well, first you have to “prepare” to pick the berries. Wild blackberries have thorns that would tear your clothes, your skin, often going deep enough to bleed. This means in 100 degree temperatures, on top of whatever shirt you’re wearing, you put on a long-sleeved shirt and then put rubber bands around each wrist. Then, while wearing your oldest pair of blue jeans, you stuff your feet down into heavy barn boots, tucking in your pant legs. Lastly, add gloves, sun hat, bucket, and a generous layer of mosquito repellent. Wearing such a fetching outfit helps to deter snakes, chiggers, or whatever to wants gnaw on you.
After we filled our buckets with berries, we would come out of the field or ditch hot, sweaty, and scratched up from the thorns. Nothing was sweeter than the fresh-squeezed lemonade that Momma had waiting for us. After we’d wash the berries, she’d send us off to take showers and throw our clothes in the washer before heading to our grandmother’s house to celebrate the 4th. The next day, Momma would make jars of blackberry jam and jelly to be eaten on cold winter mornings or nights when she’d make breakfast for supper.
Today, my husband and I went back to the same farm where as a child, I picked blackberries. Rather than long-sleeves and pants, my husband wore short-sleeves and shorts. Instead of a sun hat and gloves, he was armed with a lawn-mower and a hoe. He mowed up the berries and brought the vines up to him using his hoe. (Effective tools against the snakes, but not the chiggers!). He picked three quarts of berries which have now been washed, stored in bags, and are now tucked away in the freezer. They’ll become a cobbler, jam, or jelly later this summer.
When I finished reading her text, I chuckled. Not at the sweet story she told, but because what she didn’t know was that just like her, I went searching for blackberries the same day. My favorite patch is almost ready for picking. Next weekend, I’ll get up extra early and dress up in long-sleeves, an old pair of blue jeans, gloves, and a sun hat to do what my sister and generations have done before me – I’ll go blackberry picking. Some things never change.
Enjoy this Despite Everything post from 2013 about blackberry picking.