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Berry good memories

DANIEL J. PAUL

“A-picking here, a-picking there, here a pick, there a pick, everywhere a pick-pick.” — Author unknown

Growing up in Caspian created numerous fond memories. Some of them include the times when I would go picking berries, either with my cousins or parents.

With my cousins, our berry-picking centered on wild strawberries. I recall multitudes times searching the hills and valleys surrounding our little community. Oftentimes, our treks would take hours in search of these elusive small berries and gather enough for a pint/quart. During these moments, our conversations were limited.

On the other hand, when searching for blueberries with my parents, the sweet, pungent smell could be captured by my father even in a vehicle (with the windows rolled down), while traversing the county roads. I was not blessed with such an olfactory gift.

One of these many treks in search of harvesting wild blueberries was in the Gibbs City area. During these occasions, while picking berries, we would have conversations that oftentimes centered on their lives during the Great Depression. What sparked these comments centered on their memories of picking berries and growing food for their survival and also how difficult it was to live in those times.

I remember them talking about having to sew patches on their clothing and having to put cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes. Then there was wintertime, when they had to wear double and triple layers of clothing, just to keep warm during those frigid times. My mother also recalled one winter during the Great Depression, where she and another girl had to walk all the way from Caspian to attend Stambaugh High School — a distance of more than a mile — when it was 30 to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and no chill factor then. It took my mother and her friend till noon to thaw out from the cold.

These and so many more memories were shared; it was like the activity of picking blueberries was the catalyst for these recollections, and so it is with me. Recently, after a few years’ hiatus, I began to pick some blueberries in a place that was not far from my home (I was given a tip).

Lucky for me, two of my children were home and accompanied me on my excursion. This experience almost paralleled my earlier years picking blueberries with my parents. The only drawback for me was age. Getting down on my hands and knees, and attempting to rise with no support has occasionally left me with the half-step hobble with muscles screaming at me to stop acting like a contortionist.

All that aside, when venturing into the woods, many topics were covered, ranging from my youth and activities spent with my parents, to my children’s lives and what is currently transpiring for them. Words cannot express how this small activity positively interconnected us even more.

Beyond that is the time when conversation lagged, and I was left alone with my own thoughts and quietness. During those times, my focus centered on praying and just enjoying the smells and sounds of nature’s majestic concert.

If you have never attempted to pick any type of wild berries, maybe now is the time to consider this relaxing activity–and have the family accompany you. One may gain not only a strengthening of relationships, but it may afford the time to also spend it with the Lord. (I hope and pray that you have a berry, berry great time.)

Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His articles focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. Go to his website at meaningfuldifferences.net.

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