The Last Fruit of Summer


Elizabeth JanoskiEvery year we say we’re going to do it. We’re going to fix the netting covering our blueberry patch. Every year we never get a “round-to-it”. Once again I am in a race to beat the robins and the doves to the last bushes now ripening.

Blueberries are easy to pick. The ripest berries roll easily off the stem with a gentle twist of finger and thumb. They are a good size so the basket fills pretty quickly. I listen to the birds twittering about my invasion of their patch and remember one of the first activities I did with my mother-on-law.

About two weeks before our late August wedding, my soon-to-be mother-in-law decided we should go pick blueberries. She’d given us a freezer as a wedding gift and was rather determined to fill it so off we went over hill and dale to a wonderful commercial blueberry patch where the picking was easy. Martha had brought a selection of buckets and her goal was to fill them all. We had made a pretty good start of it when the skies opened up. I will never forget her standing in the pouring rain, a clear plastic rain bonnet her only protection, as we waited to have the buckets weighed and make payment. When thunder rumbled in the distance, she urged me to go to the car because her son would never forgive her if I got struck by lightning. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure I didn’t want to explain to my fiancée and his family that the mother of the groom had drowned in the deluge that was coming down on our heads. So we waited, laughing in the pouring rain as our blueberries began to float in the buckets filling up with water. “We may not have to wash these,” she remarked.

About the last thing I did with my mother-in-law before she became too ill to move around outside was pick blueberries in our own patch. It was a bright, sunny day. I was still weak from surgery and the course of chemotherapy I’d just finished, so neither of us were in good shape. We supported each other as we toddled out to the patch, her with her bucket, me with my basket, and my Border Collie pup, Robin. We took turns telling the other, “You should go sit down. I’ll finish this.”

Martha, had put her pail on the ground so she could steady herself with one hand while picking with the other, just glancing out of the corner of her eye at her bucket as she dropped handfuls of blueberries. It took her a while to realize why her bucket wasn’t filling as it should. “Oh, Robin,” she exclaimed, which was a phrase that had become something of a mantra around our house since this busy pup had arrived. Robin had acquired a taste for blueberries and he was slurping them out of her bucket as fast as she could pick them.

Robin still loves to go to the blueberry patch. I keep my basket safely on my arm as is my habit, listening to the birds chatter about the invaders. Like his namesake, Robin flits from bush to bush looking for ripe berries on a low hanging branch. “Oh, Robin,” I whisper, partway between laughter and tears. “Martha’s watching you.”

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