Picking The Blues

Picking the Blues 

It’s rainy. And it has been all week, off and on, more on than off most days. My sister and my six-year-old niece are in town, and the family needs to do something together.

“Let’s go blueberry picking!” I suggest enthusiastically.

The kids all look at the ominous sky, and then at me with obvious doubts. “It is not raining,” I say. “Come on. It will be fun!”

Aong the fifteen minute drive, it starts to pour. “Mom, it’s raining,” they point out.

“It’ll stop,” I say. They are still dubious, but they love the honey mustard at the co-op in town. So we all press north. By the time we are given our official blueberry-picking buckets (complete with a rope to hang them around our necks), the rain has stopped.

The bushes are bursting with big, fat blobs of dark blue. They are freshly washed from the rain, and yet still warm from the sun. “Look at the size of these!” each of us exclaim in turn.

“I’m just picking the big ones,” declares son number two. “I only want the big ones.”

“They are good,” states my sister as she pops one into her mouth. “The first one was so good that I think I need to try another to make sure…”

The oldest two are convinced that the best ones–“the fat ones”–are higher up, further in. The boys disappear down into the rows, with their young cousin in hot pursuit. “Where are you going?” she calls as she scurries after them to check it out for herself.

My sister and I let them scatter at will. We are the only ones picking right now. Others were likely more mindful of weather, and more willing to wait for a more solidly clear day. We only have today together, and we are determined to pick.

“We are each filling up these buckets before we leave.” They protest that this will take hours… and we answer as all moms everywhere do: “Then you better get busy.”

The thunder rolls a bit, but the skies do not open up. “My bucket is all full,” the littlest one reports. We look down and laugh out loud. She has about 20 berries. We tell her to keep picking, she needs more.

She trots off behind her 13 year-old cousin. “How many do you have? Mom says I have to pick more,” she reports as she picks–and pops them straight into her mouth.

I start to tell my sister about how, in the years she is not here, I have gathered several friends and their kids, and have gone with a large group of teenagers. This story reminds me how blueberries could be turned into miniature bullets if we moms did not keep on top of the boys. There is something oddly enticing about blueberries.

And just then, I hear one brother call to the other, “Got you!”

My chastisements are swift. “Keep picking! No wasting the blueberries! This is someone’s farm, and you need to honor their work! Besides–we won’t leave until everyone’s buckets are full! Pick more!”

The oldest comes over and compares. “I have more than you,” he taunts. Game on, I think. I am show him mine, and tell him I’m clearly the winner. He snatches blueberries from my bucket. “You have less now,” he says and scampers off, chuckling at his antics.

“Pick more,” I respond. “And, hey, by the way: I’m going to win.”

“You think!” he says. “I always win.” He pelts me with a blueberry. I give him the evil eye as he runs off laughing.

Again the clouds darken, again the skies rumble. My sister and I start to head us all towards the car. “But there’s another one,” we say again and again. “We can’t leave this one!” We keep putting berries into the buckets all the way out.

At the scales, the moment of truth is upon us. The middle son’s is full of “only the fat ones”. The youngest has combined with her cousin, and they have a modest amount (and rather full bellies). My sister’s is quality through and through, no stems and all beautiful blue berries. The lady weighs mine, and my oldest son’s.

He was right: he’s beaten me by a half a pound. I claim this difference as the berries he “stole” out of my bucket to put into his. I refuse to concede defeat, but he claims victory anyway.

We leave with nearly 80 lbs of blueberries, just as the rain starts in again. Mission accomplished.

Jill Stahl Tyler is back to being a parent to three: one at college, one a senior at the high school and one an 8th grader at the middle school. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com.

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