A sweet scent filling the produce section announces their
arrival. Not the cold, hard strawberries
on steroids that travel from distant destinations all year round, but the small
red jewels that grow local – leaf-hidden, hovering notes of delight. These are hand-picked, delicate, tender smiles that
stain fingers, teeth and tongue.
In their wafting wake comes my Grandmother’s love – also
tender, sweet and local for a time when I was little enough to ripen under her
sun. I was her strawberry girl – picking
in the long, low, leafy rows that stretched across the field beside her
house. Then watching, waiting, for the
slow ripening on the windowsill of things picked too soon.
I learned to squat over and along the rows, watching where I
put my feet, lifting green on the hunt for red. Hard, spring-green berries were left hanging and even the rubies were
checked for green tips cool in the shadows untouched by sunlight.
All was done in one swift movement – brushing, sweeping aside
leaves with one hand while the other reached, then cradled, inspecting the
fruit and – if all was ready – the fingernail of a thumb worked to cut the cord holding fruit to vine.
Berries were gathered in green cardboard quarts, small treasure chests
filled with delight. Then we washed and dried them looking for the tiny creatures, black
like seeds with legs sprouted, that lived their lives walking across the
landscape of those small, crimson orbs. (oh! to be one of them!) Clean
berries were cut, mashed, drowned in sugar and pectin and heated on the stove. Simmering slow, they were transformed into glistening jam that my grandma stored in old margarine
containers. This was doled out on top of buttered toast that did not end until you were
A ripe berry is warmth spread through and through, softness,
tenderness – sunlight transformed into scent and sweetness.
So also is love.
I carry her love in me like a ripe berry carries sunlight and water.
Linking with #TellHisStory.