Early July is pre-blueberry season in Massachusetts but it is time to start thinking about picking. Where I grew up, wild blueberries are a big deal and my folks happened to have a prize patch and my sister and I used to help with the harvest. By that I mean, my mom would gently boot us out of the nice cool house with a coffee can apiece and tell us not to come back until they were full.
If you have ever picked wild blueberries, you know that it takes a long time. They are smaller and more tart than the kind that you find at the store – well worth the time but they sure do add up slowly. One day, I knocked my can over. Record screech, awkward silence, stomach falling five stories – this is the worst possible blueberry picking accident. Stained shirt, sunburn, little bugs – I could handle those. Hundreds of painstakingly gathered berries rolling down the hill into the field for the birds to eat was too much to handle. I sat down to cry.
And then it happened. This is one of those childhood moments that taught me a thousand lessons in about a second. My sister quietly walked up to me and gently poured half of hers into my empty can. Her can had been almost full. She had been within moments of a tall glass of lemonade and an afternoon of reading in the shade. Instead, she shared her berries with me. We quietly finished the job and headed back to the house.
I don’t think this little memory is something that she thinks about too often but it comes back to me every time I pause to think about teamwork, generosity or, frankly, blueberries. In retrospect, I realize that this is something that farm kids see every day. Harvesting, just like eating, is not a solitary act. Traditionally, farmers shared equipment, family members and what ever it took to get the job done. Hard work tastes good. The company of friends and family is sweet. And I love blueberries.