Imagine the Air Jordan logo. Now imagine it rotated 90 degrees to the right. That was me standing in front of the blackberry bush, except I wasn’t doing anything with a basketball. I was reaching to pick berries from a cluster on an out-of-the-way branch, bracing myself against the barbs that threatened to disrupt my almost-precarious balance, lest I drop the container of already-picked berries that I held in my other outstretched hand. The sweet smell of the leaves and grasses and marshy foliage reminded me of picking blackberries during my childhood.
None of my boys wanted to go blackberry picking with me because “no offense, mom, but It’s kind of a girl thing,” so after I dropped my younger two off at camp, I hit the berry patch. I was alone with my thoughts. I’d left my phone in the car, so I wasn’t distracted by any of the beeping, jingling or pinging notifications that represented my personal sliver of the 15 petabytes of new information that is created daily, worldwide, according to the presentation I’d just watched.
I remembered the first time I picked blackberries. We had moved from Rhode Island to a new house in Massachusetts during the middle of my 7thgrade year. At first, I hated everything about moving and the new house, but when summer came and the blackberry bush blossomed, my appreciation for the new house budded. My love for baking originated with learning to make blackberry pie, from scratch, all by myself (much to my mother’s chagrin, since it was something she’d hoped to pass on to me). I’d said “No thanks,” and cracked open “The Joy of Cooking,” which since that time, has been my kitchen bible.
Without my phone, things were a lot quieter. I could mostly enjoy those moments in time, without my attention being divided by exponential numbers of noisy bits and bytes. I tried not to worry about what anyone would think if I didn’t answer them right away. The sun shone down on me and the sweet berries that I popped in my mouth almost as often as I dropped them in my container.
Savor every moment, I thought, as I enjoyed another blackberry. This was something people had told me about parenting. “It goes by so fast,” meaning childhood. And I suppose it does. My oldest was at overnight camp for a week. It wasn’t the first time he’s been away from home for that long, but it was the first time he took off with his friends and didn’t look back.
I wondered how my own mom felt when I spent the entire summer after 8th grade in Maine with a friend on her grandmother’s rural 500 acre property – and I do mean rural: the closest post office was in the next town, six miles away; we had no electricity or running water; I don’t even remember if they had a landline phone. Back then I don’t think there was such a thing as answering machines, never mind the idea of carrying a phone around in your pocket 24/7.
I thought about how fleeting my boys’ childhoods are. My middle son just became a teenager. My baby is halfway to 18. Had I been “savoring” enough?
Pffft, I thought as I put a whole handful of blackberries into my mouth. You can’t savor everything. I certainly didn’t appreciate watching countless episodes of “Bob the Builder”; I did not cherish cutting up kid food served on plastic plates, and then eating the leftovers; and I certainly did not relish changing diapers for nearly a decade. When my kids were younger, there were times that I counted down the hours – then minutes – to bedtime.
The buzzing insect circling my head reminded me that there are lot of unsavory things about blackberry picking, too, such as thorns, spiders, bees, and mosquitos (and according to all the friends I’d invited to come with me but had declined, poison ivy, ticks, and bears, however I have yet to encounter any of those). You just have to accept the fact that sometimes you’re going to encounter berries that have bird poop, little white webs, or bug nibbles on the – and be sure to avoid the ones on the low branches because that’s where dogs pee. But overall, berry picking is an awesome thing.
I was more wistful than insulted that my son “disappeared” at camp, because I know that is how it is supposed to be. I’m now at the stage where I’m counting down the minutes until I can go pick my older two up at the movies or a party. They are forging their own paths, like I did with the pie recipe I chose. It wasn’t until years later that we discovered why my crust was the new family favorite – I had picked a completely different recipe than my mom used.
I shoved aside thoughts about my looming meetings and to-dos and the fact that I was completely out of reach. The ongoing digital distraction of TMI these days can be extremely unsavory. The season is so short and the blackberries won’t be here for very long. I quit picking when I figured I’d collected just enough blackberries to make a pie. I remembered when I was a kid the anticipation of the finished pie coming out of the oven, and how hard it was to wait for it to cool before it was cut. And then all too quickly, it would be nothing but a memory.
My oldest will be starting high school this fall, and then it won’t be long before I watch him drive off for the first time in the family car, counting down the minutes until he’s home safe.
I emerged from the berry patch mostly unscathed (except for a few bug bites and scratches), which is how I hope to emerge from child-rearing (except for a few gray hairs and worry lines).