Friday, June 14, 2013

Cherries and Childhood

It's cherry-picking time! I managed to get Larry to wait until most of the cherries were ripe. He gets impatient and wants to pick fruit before it's ready and all you jam-makers know that for the best jam, the fruit has to be dead ripe. This morning was the day, though, and he picked me 3/4 or a two-gallon bucketful.

I sat on the porch to pit them, and the task brought back so many memories. When I was a child, our yard had five or six sour red cherry trees. They were loaded with cherries every year; the biggest tree was the parent of many smaller seedlings, and Dad planted some of those and gave small trees away to several people.

I wonder now what my mother thought as she watched us scamper across the yard with our buckets. She would send us out immediately after breakfast. Each of us had something to pick into, and we would dump the cherries into a large dark-blue granite canning kettle as our containers filled. But imagine the sight of five or six children running across green grass in an old Victorian neighborhood, buckets in our hands and our high voices filling the air with chatter. We were probably wearing shorts, and some of us had our hair in braids.

Mom was most likely standing in the kitchen in front of the sink, watching her brood and thinking...what? How fortunate she was to have such a large family? How noisy we were? How lovely the yard was with flowers in bloom and the vegetable garden showing early promise? Did she enjoy the slant of the sun through the large maple where we had our treehouse, or the distant glimmer of red against green at the end of the yard where the ripe cherries awaited our arrival? Did she worry about us falling out of the tree? Or did she simply go about her work, taking the morning's excitement as routine and not something she might have noticed for what it was, an iconic moment in time, a still-life of a simpler time that she could call back to memory when we were all grown and scattered and even the cherry trees were no longer hers?

I thought about these things as I sat alone on my porch, 300 miles away from my childhood home, pitting the first real crop of cherries from my tree. Red juice squirted on me and on the floor as one by one the cherries moved from colander to bowl and the seeds pinged against the pottery bowl set on the floor to catch them. I have a cherry stoner and it works quite well, but this morning I wanted to do it the way I remembered, to savor the sweetness of memories, to hear again the lost children's voices, and to see the tree bending under my impatient, scabby knees.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Jeanne said...

Back in the day tree climbing was as natural as breathing for children. I would imagine your mom never gave it a second thought. We climbed our neighbors cherry tree and ate the tart cherries, no one made jam, but my mom made an occasional cobbler if we brought her enough. Thanks for the memory!

Michelle said...

What wonderful memories you have. I remember climbing trees as a child and am lucky that my own children have had the opportunity to do so on our farm. You are making me wish I had a cherry tree.

Nance said...

Your descriptive words and cadence evoke so many child-hood memories and images in me. And for me. Sweet!

Jai Joshi said...

There's nothing more rewarding than picking ripe summer fruits! And cherries are particularly delightful.


Sue said...

My husband has wonderful memories of picking cherries from his grandfather's trees. He talks about it often.


warren said...

I love your stories...even the ones that aren't official stories

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