Initiation of a Pacific Nortwest Family

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It’s that time of year in the B-town, again. It’s blackberry season! Last year BusyBee was too small to learn what summer really tastes like for a PNW child. So, although neither of us were feeling top notch, we wandered out into the front yard.

BusyBee, lounged in his stroller while I took a quart size tub out and stepped gingerly up to the bushes. I surveyed the area. There were lots of branches heavy with juicy berries… and spiders.

Have you ever watched an arachnophobe pick berries? If you ask BusyBee he would tell you it’s a hoot, if he could talk. Instead he just laughed maniacally as I jumped around and screeched.

If you hate spiders and love blackberries, picking in front of your children will either be a wonderful way to practice your self control (if you wish not to swear in front of your children) or else a wonderful way for them to learn how to curse in context. Let’s just say that if I don’t learn to reign in the spider-hate my son will soon be quite efficient at cussing. Whoops!

Well, after a good ten minutes of hilarity I had collected about a cup and half of sweet juicy berries and BusyBee was beginning to fuss. Even my craziness no longer held enough draw for him to be okay with reigning in his busy ways. I couldn’t let him loose or I wouldn’t be able to pick so much as one more berry. (When he runs free in the yard, I spend the entire time running behind him, redirecting him away from the busy avenue, the dumpsters, the neighbor’s flowers and broccoli plants, etc.)

He’s a picky eater these days but I hoped that a sweet, bumpy little berry might, at least, be tempting enough to try. I held the bucket forward and prompted him to pick a berry. He pulled one out and felt it. He held it up and looked at it, poked at it with his other hand.

“Yummy!” I tried to look excited, hoping he would just try it.

He looked skeptical but licked it. He raised and eyebrow at me, in doubt and put it in gingerly into his mouth. His whole face scrunched up in disgust and he plucked it back out without ever biting into it.

For those of you who have never looked closely at a freshly picked blackberry, they have little hairy things on them. BusyBee looked a little horrified.

“Yummy.” I repeated, a little more firmly as I squashed a berry between my fingers, letting the magenta juices stain my fingertips. Quick as a flash, I popped one of my newly sticky fingers into his mouth. “Yummy!” Again, I tried to sound excited.

There was a pause, a delay, before he screwed his face up. NEW FLAVOR his little face said. Then, he softened a bit and looked quizzically at the smushed bit of berry in my hand. Then he leaned forward a bit, still unsure but ready to try again, as open mouthed as a baby bird. Naturally, I obliged, dropping the juicy bit of blackberry onto his tongue.

He burst into a smile and grabbed my bucket.

I stood and smiled as I watched the world come full circle once again. The evening sun was sending golden beams through the trees as my son gobbled up blackberries, fresh of the bush, for the first time. It is amazing how parenthood can change the way you view the world. Twenty eight summers ago, not an hour away, my mother was the one occupying a tiny version of me with a bucket of juicy blackberries, while she went about foraging nature’s bounty for her family.

Grabbing a different bucket, I went back to picking berries. I got more daring, taking a stick to remove the spider webs (if their occupants were nowhere in sight) and lifting leaves and branches to check for spiders that could be lurking in the shade.

I reflected, and chuckled to myself, about the stories my mother used to tell about the first summer that my older brother went berry picking with her, as I filled my bucket. She had been cloth diapering him and was surprised to find all of his diapers turning bright pink. (Mental note… call Mom about how she got those stains out!) Memories of being sent out with my older brother and a couple of buckets, to pick blackberries, warmed my chest. At the time I’d assumed my mother wanted to eat cobbler as much as us, now I know she most likely wanted quiet even more than she wanted sweets.

It didn’t take me long to pick five more cups of berries. While I picked BusyBee ate and squished and painted (in regular toddler form) with all of the first bucket of black berries and a few more that I shared. I laughed and he laughed (and clapped) with me as I assessed the damage he had done.

His face was covered with streaks of pink and dark bits of berries. His hands were fuchsia, his arms streaked and covered in pink hand prints. His diaper cover was deep purple from being saturated with so much juice. Dribbles and smears of juice made his belly look festive. Then, there were his feet. His sweet little Flinstone feet were coated in berries. He had spent extra time smashing a whole berry (or three?) into the toes of his left foot.

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There it was, this new memory forming as I caught hold of the little nuances of the moment, in my heart and mind: an evening formed of salty ocean air, warm buttery sunbeams, and a baby sated with sweet blackberries. As I ran the bath, to soak the layers of purple and pink off of my sleepy toddler, I reflected on how strange it was that I was the mother in this story now.

Will BusyBee ever be a DaddyBee in his own right? Will he let his own toddler sate themselves on juicy berries, staining everything they touch? I find myself wondering more and more about what BusyBee will be like as a man and what the world will be like when he gets there.

For tonight, I will take comfort in the traditions carried forward as I eat my fresh Blackberry Watermelon Sorbet. Fresh, simple, homemade, homegrown food is so very delicious.

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