blueberry picking.

I’m trying to start this piece with conflict. Specifically, I’d like to describe a scene with my two daughters and I fighting as we made our way to the blueberry patch; the activity my friend Cara and I planned for the day. I want to describe the fighting because I know it happened, as it does every day. The problem is I can’t remember what the girls and I were fighting about. It could’ve had to do with Hadley and Harper not picking up their toys when I asked them to. Or maybe it was that one of them refused to throw her pajamas in the laundry basket. Maybe one of them wanted to bring something along and I said she couldn’t so we fought about that.

I know for a fact the three of us fought, because I remember feeling frazzled and shaken over how easy it is for me to go from zero to screaming in three seconds. I remember as we drove down the road that took us to the orchard, that I wanted to start the day over. As the sun blared on my left arm heating it up even though the windows were shut and the A/C was blasting, I remember going over the morning’s events (whatever they were) and trying to figure out how I could have done things differently. I remember crossing my right arm over my left, squeezing my shoulder, and feeling the warmth of my skin from the sun. How strange, I thought, that one part of my body could be freezing and the other almost dripping with sweat. I can remember all this as the girls and I drove down the road to the orchard but I don’t know what it was that we argued about.

We turned off the paved road onto a gravelly dirt one and I felt the shade of the oak trees, their thick green leaves heavy and dripping with fresh air that made me slow down my breathing. “This is beautiful,” I said and the girls agreed. “This road is so twisty, Mama,” Hadley said. “It’s fun!”

“What’s this place called again?” Harper asked.

“Butler’s Orchard,” I told her.

“BUT-ler’s Orchard?” Harper giggled, and then repeated, “BUT-ler’s?”

Hadley snickered and I did, too. I’m a sucker for a butt joke and honestly was delighted that my four year-old made a play on words.

We drove past a big red country store-looking building with wooden baskets, sunflowers, a couple of golden retrievers, and a few cars parked in front of it. “WELCOME TO BUTLER’S ORCHARD!” a wooden sign read. “FOLLOW THIS ROAD TO PICK YOUR OWN.” Strawberries, blueberries, snap peas, and cherries were available on the morning we arrived.

The girls and I were animated as we “oooed” and “aahhed” while the car’s wheels crunched over gravel, popping it up into the air so it tinked and thunked against the car. “Look at that hayslide!” “OOO! Will we go on a tractor ride?” “How many buckets of blueberries do you think we can pick?”

I’m not a nature person. Frankly, I hate and fear it. I can write pages about the Chicago skyline, about falling asleep to what I considered the el’s lull, or about playing pick-up games of beach volleyball pillowed between Lake Michigan and the skyscrapers. When I write about a blueberry patch, I’m not trying to say that being in nature changes my mood. However, changing the scenery does. Being cooped up in the house on a hot summer day with nothing to do is bound to make the three of us snippy. Sometimes I think doing motherhood is like staring at a word search unable to find a word but knowing you’re so damn close. In this kind of word search, I tend to sit and weep while I look for the right letters, wondering why they won’t appear no matter how hard I’m trying. I tend to sit when what I need to do is get up and do something else. Go for a run. Read InStyle magazine. Meet Cara and her kids for blueberry picking.

Cara helps me see the letters of motherhood. They may still be a jumbled mess, but acknowledging that, my friend is telling me that yes, this doesn’t make any sense. You may not get this right, but do you want to keep trying anyway? Maybe we’ll create a new word? Or, at the least, let’s work on the puzzle together.

The blueberries were the color of the morning just as the last of night dissolves. They were the size of grapes. We were able to ride on a tractor to the delight of our children (and, OK, I was pretty excited about it too). And together we picked four buckets of blueberries.

I noticed all this as we plucked berries off their hedges and dropped them in the bucket with a satisfying plunk. I took note of it all as Scarlett, Hadley, and Harper hopped in between Cara and I, carefully picking blueberries after inspecting them. I tried to memorize the feeling of the sun, as I watched Atticus, who was riding on Cara’s back, reach over her shoulder and pick blueberries to snack on. I realized then, that I hadn’t walked away from the puzzle. Instead, I was sitting happily smack dab in the middle of the jumbled mess with no intention of finding the right answer; just enjoying the feeling of blueberries tumbling into my hand after I plucked them from the branch.

Words and photo by Callie Feyen.