Sunday, May 8, 2011

mountain momma

Mountain Momma could have been my mother's nickname. She grew up in the shadow of a mountain although the towering peak was out of sight. When you get up close to something so big, you can't see it.
The wooded hills and valleys were full of blueberries and my mother grew up picking them by the syrup pail full. She even sold blueberries to the trains that passed through Blue River. It's no surprise then that we picked blueberries every summer of my childhood.
Berry picking is hard work. Wild blueberries were for the most part, the low bush variety. You had to crouch or bend by the hour while mosquitoes hovered in clouds around your face, buzzing up your nose and into ears.
I can still see my mother dressed in the ugliest, oldest clothes she owned. Her berry picking ensemble included old patched pants tucked into thick socks. A long sleeved shirt, always long sleeved, tucked into the pants and a netted hat tucked in around her collar. The rest of us were clad in similar raggedness.
Then we would be doused in insect repellent.
This last step really didn't make any difference. The insects just licked it off and went for the jugular. If I had a dollar for every bite I had as a child I would be on Forbes list of the very wealthy.
Still, for all its misery, blueberry picking outings were a big deal. I loved the plink plink of berries filling a pail; The inevitable praise, the laughter.
Arriving home at last, weary and bug bitten and stained, the real work lay ahead. The ironing board would be covered with a flannel sheet and the berries would be rolled down it into a large bowl. Leaves and twigs would cling and the little white ghost berries and shrivelled rejects would be patiently culled out before the fruit was canned or frozen.
When Blue River lay locked in winter's icy grip we dipped into the stash of summer's bounty. Blueberry cobbler bubbled and browned in the oven. Crisp golden waffles were smothered with steaming purple fruit. The fruit of our labour.
Thanks Mom. I couldn't see then. I was up too close. Thank you Mom.

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