It has been two weeks since we ate all the berries from that sunny morning’s picking, but I can still feel the sticky juice dripping down Emily’s face as she stuffed berry after berry into her mouth.
Almost a month later I hear Jack’s joyful shouts as he finds the “perfect” strawberry for our collection.
I froze a bunch of them.
The rest we ate atop shortcake biscuits, covered in fresh whipped cream, or plain out of bowls at lunchtime.
All these weeks later I still muse over how marvelously different their shape, texture, and taste was from the store-bought berries we had eaten all winter and spring.
Three years ago, I took little Jack berry picking, just the two of us. We filled a modest box of strawberries, and I remember enjoying them, but I do not remember them to be anything like the berries we picked this year.
This year, there was something extra-special about that excursion, about the momentary alignment of four beings’ happiness.
Inhaling those fields, intoxicated by the glowing strawberry scent, it seemed unreal. I briefly imagined I was someplace like Disney, where they pump artificial aromas out of grates to please visitors and tempt them to buy cotton candy or popcorn. Then I remembered I was someplace real and natural.
The essence of all those berries ripening in the early summer sun became all the more enchanting.
When I was very small, my grandfather used to pick a hearty wagon-full of strawberries. He made his own jam from his pickings, but not before he allowed me to sit at his kitchen table and eat my fill. This all-I-could-eat strawberry buffet is probably how they became one of my favorite foods.
But over the years, eating the watery, hard, and tart berries grown so far away from me, I’ve forgotten how strawberries are supposed to taste.
Watching Emily and Jack gorge themselves in the field, I realized they never truly tasted a strawberry before.
This collection of thoughts jar me. How far we have come from being connected and mindful about the food that we eat, where it comes from, and how it is grown.
Later, I stood at the sink, washing off the still warm fruit with cool water.
I held a few strawberries in my hand and mused on their perfect shape, texture, taste.
Part of me wanted to save them forever, stems still attached.
Part of me wished we had picked more, wished that I knew how to make jam, or that I had the motivation to bake pies, slumps, crumbles, buckles, or muffins.
But you can’t stuff bliss in a bottle or muffin tin.
So smiling, I sliced them up, and they were consumed and enjoyed.