October 21, 2014
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Wild berries can turn back the clock

Fairness and blackberries are important.

Carol reminded me of this when she returned from walking Ollie at Confreda fields.

“Look,” she said with an air of triumph holding up a small glass jar. In it were nestled about a dozen blackberries. They look like small cousins to those giant juicy ones on supermarket shelves, but the store-bought blackberries can’t approximate the wild ones for taste.

I slipped one in my mouth letting the tart juice – they weren’t quite ripe – fill my palate. It was just like the berries we found just over stonewalls on either side of the roads on Block Island.

When the kids were still in elementary school, our family spent a couple summer days biking around the island. It was an adventure that often had our legs aching – yes, there are hills on Block Island – and our T-shirts wet with sweat. Those ahead would often pull off the road, leave their bikes lying in the grass and scout for blackberries. By the time the rear guard caught up, the advance party of Ted and Jack had found the berries. Their hands were stained and we could count on them to direct us to the most productive bushes, which usually required reaching into a thorny patch. But it was worth it.

The kids never complained about which one may have found and eaten the most berries. There was no whining about, “That’s unfair, Jack has the best place and he’s got more berries than me.” This was a situation where it was acceptable to be a pig, which made it all the more meaningful when one of the kids found a perfect berry and handed it over as a gift.

Last week, Carol put the jar out of reach before I could grab another berry.

“Shall we have Cheerios and berries?”

The suggestion had me nodding enthusiastically. It’s rare that we have Cheerios in the house, but the grandchildren were here after July 4 and Cheerios was on the list of necessities. They are a staple when it comes to kids, even infants. Many meals were spent with one of our three children in an adjoining highchair picking at Cheerios.

Carol always had a baby bottle ready, although, for fear that it would get quickly knocked to the floor, we didn’t leave the bottle on the tray. We would spoon feed, and occasionally put out a few Cheerios. This often proved a challenge. They are small and hard to pickup, but the delight in having one reach a mouth was worth it. Of course, our dog Bilbo knew the miss rate was in excess of 50 percent. He was there to catch what was dropped from a sticky hand or brushed off the tray. Later, when the kids were capable of feeding themselves, Honey Roasted Cheerios were the hit breakfast cereal. At that time, the kids paid more attention to what they were getting, or not getting. They watched to see which of their siblings scored a few extra Cheerios. Carol cured the rivalry by counting the Cheerios. They all got the same and, although I don’t remember that being the case, my count was probably the same, too. The fairness rule was a great equalizer. There were no favorites.

When we got home the other day, Carol got out the Cheerios, a couple of bowls and even a one-quart container of milk. Milk is another rarity in our house, unless the kids and grandkids are visiting. I couldn’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve had a bowl of Cheerios; Cheerios with blackberries must be a couple of decades.

The first crunchy bite, before the Cheerios soak up some milk, was just as I recalled. I loaded the spoon with Cheerios and a berry for the next bite. Wow, that was good. I looked across at Carol. She seemed to be having the same reaction.

Then I looked again … Did she have more berries than me? I was about to count but I caught myself. There’s no knowing what that might have started. Some things in life are so good they can’t be quantified. Try a few wild blackberries and you’ll know what I mean.

Best of all, share them, and try not to keep count.


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