You can get away with things when it’s your birthday. You can even make phone calls to your deeply-sleeping college-aged children at nine-thirty on a Saturday morning to ask them if they want to go strawberry picking even when it’s something neither they nor you have ever done.
Here I am, “halfway to ninety” (as my “halfway to forty” son sweetly pointed out) and I’ve never picked strawberries- blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, yes; but never strawberries. So I thought: what better thing to do on your birthday than something you’ve never done?
The three children acquiesced, as one might humor a little old lady. They showed not even a hint of insincerity. (Have they been taking acting lessons alongside Algebra and Physics?) I picked them up at the apartment they share just off campus, and off we went. The four of us aren’t often in the same place at the same time, so that in itself was a little treat for me.
Saturday was a beautiful day, a take-your-sweater-on-and-off kind of day; warm but not too hot, stirred with an occasional, casual breeze. The strawberry fields were amazing, stretching to the edge of vision, bountiful and fragrant. Oh, and muddy. And populated with young families trying to artificially manufacture sweet memories.
To my left I could hear a father chiding his daughter for not moving fast enough and berating his son for playing in the mud. The mother complained about wearing the wrong shoes. Grandma worked ahead, gathering quietly. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I was. I wanted to go tell them to relax and enjoy each other. They were too close to the mundane, too preoccupied with regulation to see that childhood is fleeting. They were missing the joy. Been there, done that, I’m afraid.
I’d had my head down, busily investigating the plants and the raised beds and the watering system, as is my horticultural nature. My two daughters and son had moved to “greener pastures”, to the more distant, less-picked rows in search of the prime of all berries. I stood up and caught sight of all three of my children a few rows over. It was one of those sudden, poignant, observant moments, when God pulls back the curtain and blesses us by allowing us to see the fruits of parenting labor.
There they were, working and talking, just beyond my hearing. They moved without hurry or worry, intent on finding the best. I could detect no arguments, no strife. I realized they were happy. Their baskets and mine were full. As was my heart. Such sweet fruit!