"" Writer's Wanderings: Grandma's Strawberry Patch

Monday, May 23, 2005

Grandma's Strawberry Patch

It's getting closer to strawberry season around here. Just the thought of biting into a big red freshly picked berry, its sweet-tart juice running down my chin, begins to make my mouth water. We have plenty of U Pick 'Em places around here. The plants are neatly arranged in rows of mounded soil that's been covered with anti-weed plastic and mulched with straw to keep you from getting too dirty if you kneel to pick your berries.

Those fields are nice but my favorite field of strawberries when I was a kid was one my grandmother planted just before she died. Our house was right next to their farm--actually it was on a piece of land my grandfather had given my father. My bedroom window looked over fields that eventually were overgrown with weeds since my grandfather no longer worked the farm. The skyline of Cleveland rose in the distance, almost as though it were growing from my grandfather's fields.

I'm not sure what led my mother to my grandmother's patch of strawberries. It was quite a walk back to where she had planted it. Perhaps she was out wandering, taking a break from her two young children, when she discovered it. I think I was about 5 or 6 when she first took me back there.

We walked along a path where the weeds didn't grow through the shale that formed a smooth surface to tred upon. The weeds were tall--towering over my head--but I wasn't afraid. One hand was in my mother's hand and the other held my own little basket for my strawberries.

Even though the patch had been neglected for many years, the strawberries yielded a bumper crop. Some of the berries were so large, they filled the palm of my hand. Mom and I would pick and eat. She taught me that nothing was sweeter or tastier than the fruit fresh from the plant.

I don't remember my grandmother. She died when I was two. Her legacy lived on in that field. Somehow I had that connection to her through the strawberry picking. She gave my mother and I a great gift through that strawberry patch. It was our secret place. Mom never told anyone where she got the wonderful berries that made her strawberry jam so tasty.

The fields are gone. Suburbia encroached until all the farmland around us yielded houses. Here and there tucked in a "secret" little corner is a small field and a sign, "U Pick 'Em." Each year I go and pick. The berries aren't nearly as large or sweet--but then my hand is bigger and my memories sweeter.

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