She approached the garden, yellow bucket clutched firmly in her hands as she surveyed her opponent. The blackberry bush loomed in front of her, bouncing sunlight making the berries glow purple. Last night’s rain turned the dirt in her backyard to mud, which squelched under her slightly too big red boots with each purposeful step she took. It didn’t matter. After weeks and weeks of staring at that bush, her mom had finally pronounced the berries ready to be eaten and now she was going to eat a whole bucket full.
The air sweetened as she reached the bush and, although it was tempting to get distracted by the smell, she was intent on her mission. With trembling fingers, she tugged the first fat berry off its stem, then a second, then a third, and continued until her small bucket was overflowing with fruit. Unable to fit any more, the little girl picked up the bucket with purple stained fingers and headed back to the porch. The next 27 minutes were spent luxuriously stuffing fistfuls of blackberries into her mouth, letting each one roll around on her tongue before biting down and letting the juice explode. Still, when she felt too sick to keep eating, she had barely made a dent in her bucket.
Now, she is 22 and the intervening seventeen years have moved her hundreds of miles from the little blackberry bush. A small, plastic container holds a measly handful of blackberries, purchased from the grocery store this morning for the price of two coffees. She sits on the balcony at her boyfriend’s apartment, listening to the sound of 4 o’clock traffic and staring at the fruit. For the first time in over a decade, she thinks about those red boots and how sad she was the day they started pinching her toes and her mom gave them to the neighbor girl.
She fold her legs underneath her, still looking at the berries. That summer had been the summer of blackberries, in pies and oatmeal and tarts and custards and mid-morning snacks. Most of her childhood is a happy haze, but that one particular morning stands out sharply against the blur. The whole world had seemed magical to her that day. This, she thinks, is the problem with growing up. We all lose a bit of that magic. Now, mornings are just the start to a long day at work and blackberries are an expensive treat instead of a trip to the backyard.
A particularly loud honk jolts her out of her reverie, and as she pops the first chilled blackberry in her mouth she feels no lingering connection to the carefree child she remembers.