At about 9am yesterday morning I bought some wild black raspberries at our tiny farmer’s market. Gladly I paid three dollars for the large container. I know the young person selling the berries and I know she found them growing wild in this immediate area. As soon as I saw the berries I immediately thought of my mom and her berry picking excursions that usually included me very much against my will. At this point I started telling the group of neighbours gathered at the teeny market about some of the very close to the surface memories of my mom. They suggested I write about these preserved thoughts and as I have had a patch of dried up and fruitless writing lately I turned on the computer .I picked my usual late hours to produce this mixture of plucked recollections, revised a few words here and there and went by my old recipe of writing from the heart.
Throughout her youth, maturity and old age my mom was in tune with the seasons and made the very most of every available harvest. Berry picking was one of the most tedious things I could think of doing as I was not as motivated as she was by the hard work, strain, heat, exhaustion and endless boxes of berries from our own patch or from other commercial sources. I would rather read, act out stories, play with our puppies and daydream.
Despite this attitude I continued as the many years went by to suggest to mom that if she would like to go berry picking I would go along or drive her to a local “upick” place as I knew it would be fun for her. Once we were driven by a farmer to the very back of a huge field and dropped off for the day so she could pick to her heart’s content. She was well over ninety years old, decked out in shorts and long sleeved shirt with a berry pail attached to her waist with a belt and jauntily wearing a sun hat and her favourite white nurse’s shoes and ankle socks. She was pretty impressive and caught the attention of several younger pickers working their way down the enormous patch. When she saw student pickers taking a break and resting she gave them a piece of her mind and told them they better get busy picking berries if they wanted to make any money. My job was to run the boxes of berries she picked to the end of the rows so they could be gathered up at the end of the day’s pickathon.That day my legs ached and I sweltered in the heat in total sympathy with the student pickers but she seemed content and very proud indeed of her huge harvest. We drove around later to show the relatives what she had picked like it was some kind of athletic achievement to have the entire car full of stacked flats of berries !
Another time at another upick farm and she was in awe of the size of the operation. It was almost impossible to get her to leave the place. She seemed to feel it was her responsibility to pick over the already picked rows to glean the berries missed by others. I pointed out that other rows were untouched and just hanging with ripe fruit but she was determined to give these so called picked rows another going over just for the challenge of finding berries other people, unskilled in extreme berrypicking missed entirely. She stood by our car finally with all the berries we picked and was a bit miffed at having to pay the required full price by the owner.She had a point. These berries were the ones left by others, under the leaves and close to the ground. They had been picked and salvaged, saved from waste by her expertise. These berries had been given the treatment her own berry patch was used to, a thorough going over, a picked patch, a job well done.
Again I was glad to finally get her out of there and home for supper. After eating a warmed up dinner of leftovers and several cups of strong tea and a soup bowl of fresh berries with sugar and milk we would face the cleaning and snuffing of the berries. I would sometimes help for a short time and then beg off to go home with excuses of lesson planning or childcare responsibilities. Mom would spend hours cleaning, snuffing, preserving and freezing the fruit, well into the night and totally pleased with her product. These berries made their way into pies and jam for the family and anyone else who would drop in for a visit.
The work she loved on the farm was like this every single day. Involved, committed, determined it was like an industrial project yet fuelled by her love of nature, gardening, farming and family. There were many such excursions and many similar experiences with home-grown fruit and vegetables . All of them are ripe memories just bursting forth at the moment, poised and ready to be simply touched, held and admired for what they are worth. They are inspired by the one box of wild black raspberries gleaned in the bushes and brambles by my young neighbour, undaunted by mosquitoes and the heat. I think I got a deal.
Filed under books, cooking, family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, humour, inspiration, motivation, pets, retirement, routines, storytelling
part of the day
a certain amount
the necessity brings it to the front of the line and it surfaces for consideration
something must be done and so
the cycle continues without much
nevertheless the projects carry on as usual
waiting for the relief of a solution or an inspiration realizing that although broken and run down and grinding to a halt
the main drive is to endure
In the week before Christmas,the morning routine was to wait for mom to get into her green wool tartan housecoat and go downstairs to flip the switch on the furnace shaft to send some warm heat upstairs while I stayed in bed warming up my clothes for the day that were rolled up at the foot of the bed.With breakfast started on the stove and the tea made,mom would come back up stairs and supervise the dressing preparations for the day . It was a noteworthy day if the old quilt cover was covered a bit with some drifted snow from the shaky window sill. Outside the evergreen trees in the lane were draped with snow and the path to the road was filled in until the tractor made it’s way through it.
On such a day, by nightfall, the back shed door would thump and bang while the top part of an evergreen tree from our bush was squeezed through the entrance into the farmhouse kitchen. The tree was freshly cut, covered in snow and ice and still holding abandoned bird nests in it’s top branches. Pushed by the table, it would knock off any dishes or food placed there for supper. With a tighter squeeze it was brought into the ‘parlour’, set into a galvanized pail with water, tied with twine and attached to a nail on the wall.
Decorations were some very old twisted strings of large coloured lights with aluminum star like and pointsetta style reflectors. Some of the lights bubbled with coloured water effect. A few surviving glass baubles and recycled tinsel and silver garland completed the whole thing. Nothing fancy and hardly ever a new ornament purchased, but the remembered tree with the snow, ice and bird nests in it’s branches is a beautiful part of my Christmas heritage.
I think of that tree and I can see my big brother bringing it into the house. It isn’t a memory from a pin and post décor article or a scene from an urban chic lifestyle television program. It is the moment,captured. The back shed door, the cold fresh tree, the snow, ice and bird nests,the cups and plates and food knocked over by the huge branches, my mom standing there dealing with it all and the memory of my big brother, full of fun and bringing some to me.
Extension cords in a bundle are heaped on the mudroom bench and three garden rakes lean against the wall in the television room. A truck load of new lumber wrapped in places with duct tape and hammered with a few nails landed in my back yard and helpful neighbours have carried it away to repair their own projects. Other things such as a fat suit and a play sword have just been returned to a dance group. A few useful things such as a small carpet, flashlights and a one dollar charity shop lamp ended up in my son’s apartment. Some things were trashed and some were donated. A few boxes of things are still in the car. A rehearsal hall fan, purchased by me is stored away,somewhere. These things, related by their usefulness in a recent play directed by my son seem almost charged still with some kind of weird energy, like the props and costumes in my years and years and years old dramatic play collection, now totally dispersed. My long acquired collection was for school kids. This recent collection was for theatre.
Something else has arrived here waiting to be dealt with when the energy builds to face it. A form of anti-climatic mood lingers around the place like a distant relative, familiar, welcome enough but a bit tiring after an over extended stay. Time for it to go, run along, clean up after itself,” toodle-loo” and close the door. Routine needs to be enforced and motivation in the form of new projects, hard work and completed tasks should alter the clingy mood sighing to itself in the little piles of stuff in the mudroom and also in the back of the car.
Tomorrow is a new day. Up at sunrise. Clear the decks. Green tea (gag/trying to be healthy), journals, coffee ( finally), emails, scrambled eggs ( with hot sauce) and toast, garden rakes and extension cords. Then clean the car and put the boxes in the mudroom to sit for days and days and days.
Filed under friends, health and wellness, history, humour, inspiration, motivation, retirement, routines, storytelling, theatre, weather, writing
Three weeks have passed since I was presented with the two dress shirts to repair. They have been left draped on a chair with the sewing basket close at hand, untouched. All that was required was some very simple button sewing but it seemed to be a job I would rather postpone. Today, I sewed on the buttons. It took about an hour because the buttons had been chewed off by the little bulldog character I’ve mentioned in some previous posts. Delicate chewing had crushed about six buttons and they had to be replaced with the extra ones sewn on the bottom of the shirts. It was good of her to leave some spares. It was also good of her to leave the shirt fabric in one piece. I am trying to be positive about her best qualities.
The biggest pain was just threading the needle but eventually with a great deal of winking and aiming I got the thread through the needle and with tiny scissors I clipped away the tattered threads hanging on the chewed spots. After completing this simple task I felt some satisfaction and put the shirts away for my son when he breezes in to get them later this weekend.
The next thing I did was tidy up the sewing basket. For several years it has been in a bit of a jumble and I couldn’t quite close the lid properly. Obviously, this sewing thing is not a priority with me so a jumbled sewing box with it’s lid askew isn’t surprising. However, having finished the simple button repairs and feeling somewhat pleased with myself I decided to take a few minutes and just organize the kit so I could put it away neatly for the next sewing session.
Many spools of thread of intriguing muted colours filled the top layer of the box. Under this tray were all kinds of tiny clever travel sewing kits. Some were in little square cases, some were wrapped in brown paper and one was in a small metal capsule with a cute little thimble as a cap on the end. More mysterious paper packages revealed sets of hooks, buttons and what nots used for sewing emergencies. I found several threading devices also but could only figure out how to use one of them successfully. Ribbons, elastic tape and seam binding laid in the bottom layer of the basket. I doubt I’ll ever use them but I don’t feel the authority to remove them. They stay.
An hour or so passed sorting through all this stuff and I found myself thinking of many different things in the process. Marvelling at the common sense practicality of all the items brought back memories of my aunt. This was her workbasket and had been handed down. The careless mess of the items was my doing during the years when all I could do was dash through tasks like repairing a fallen hem or lost button. ( In my glory days as a very busy teacher I was more inclined to use a stapler to temporarily fix a dangling hem!) She had kept all these things in top order ready for action and I had pawed through them creating havoc.
In the whole scheme of things it sometimes takes time to face what needs to be done and sort through the things that don’t sit well. It takes time to really look at things, put aside the frustrations and try to use what is practical. Several years and three weeks later, some of my aunt’s common sense and practicality rubbed off on me. However, it is the thread of thought between us that I found so binding. Honestly, I enjoyed the visit.