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Sunday, August 9, 2015

I'm Just Wild About...

One of the surprising joys of summer is picking wild blackberries.  I say “surprising” because I didn’t always view it that way.  In fact, for most of my life, this was a chore to be avoided at all costs.  Happily, though, circumstances change and we can discover that things we once dreaded can be a source of happiness.  I also find that this applies to things like brussels sprouts and math.  Well, maybe not math.

I’ve also determined that picking blackberries with someone can give you great insight into their character and what kind of friend they might be.  I am fortunate in having some very good blackberry pickers in my life, one of whom happens to be my son Harry.

Here’s what makes a BAD picking companion…  First, they either talk far too much or not enough at all.  Blackberries require thought and concentration.  There are thorns and bugs to avoid, one must determine the perfect ripeness – in short, you have to pay attention to what you are doing.  That said part of the fun of doing things with someone is the opportunity to chat about a wide variety of things.  You’re alone, it’s quiet, it’s a good time to catch up – within reason.

Bad blackberry pickers are also skittish.  I used to be firmly in this camp and with good reason.  With all due respect to my lovely mother, we are not a good combination when it comes to berry-picking.  While she is by and large a very caring and considerate woman, she has an unfortunate quirk.  She likes to yell things like, “Watch out for that snake!” just to see my response.  Knowing that I fear nothing more than slithery reptiles, she is assured that what follows her declaration will be entertaining.  First, there’s the ear-piercing scream that one might expect to hear from, well, a five year-old girl having her ears unexpectedly pierced.  There next comes the record-breaking leap into the air and away from “danger”.  If only an Olympic judge could see my “snake jump”…  Those communist-era Romanians have NOTHING on me.  Finally, and most amusing of all I am told, is the string of expletives that comes out of my mouth.  This is accompanied by unintentional shivers and jerks that would make a Tourettes-sufferer blush crimson.  As you can see, a predilection toward extreme mental cruelty also makes for a bad berry-picking companion.  Luckily for mom, she makes a mean blackberry pie which helps to make up for this lapse.

Now, as far as what makes a good “blackberry friend”, Harry has it in spades.  First, he’s pleasant.  He never complains.  It’s never too hot, too sunny or too cloudy, even if it is too hot, sunny or cloudy.  He’s also diligent.  Harry doesn’t miss berries, obvious or otherwise.  He looks under the branch, he reaches, he stoops.  He’s committed to getting those blackberries.  He’s also selective.  There are no hard, red berries in Harry’s bowl, nor are there little pools of mashed fruit.  His berries are just the ones for a pie or even for eating on their own.  Harry also enjoys picking berries.  He eats along the way, making sure that we’re getting sweet, juicy fruit, and leaving a trail from his hands to his mouth in doing so.  He knows how to get into his work.

Perhaps, best of all, picking blackberries with Harry seems, well, easy.  Not just the picking, but the time itself.  The conversation is wide-ranging – what do we prefer more, pie or crisp?  How long will the berries last on the vines this year?  What should we do for fun in the next week?  What are our plans for the long term?  There’s also a lot of laughter and joking.

Most telling, though, are the quiet moments.  With Harry there is no need to fill the silence.  One knows that it’s not there because of a lack of compatibility or of things to say, rather, it’s there because, sometimes, comfortable silence is an affirmation of affection and enjoyment.  It’s a chance to just be, to focus on the task at hand, to be lost in the moment.  As a dedicated multi-tasker, I can say that this kind of moment is, sadly, a rare occurrence.  In our drive to get more done, to use all the hours in the day to create and share, we sometimes overlook the importance of doing just one, small thing at a time.  With Harry, however, you feel that it’s not only acceptable, but a virtue to simply bask.

Like his berry-picking persona, Harry is an easy, comfortable boy.  He daily teaches me about caring for other people unostentatiously, without being asked or even rewarded.  He reminds me that some of our greatest services to each other are the small, inconsequential things we do just to make things a little easier, a little more pleasant.  And he assures me that there are people who do these things naturally, without even knowing that they are doing them.  Me?  Well, I’m just wild about Harry.

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