2009 Feb 22, 12:19am
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The First Strawberry of the Season

When I was young, my grandparents on my father’s side of the family would always have a vegetable garden; if you were from that generation, and had the space, it’s just something you did. Perhaps it came from living through the Great Depression and World War II rationing, or maybe it was due to a general sense of self-sufficiency, but making things last, using only what you needed, and producing what you could for yourself were the norm. Waste not, want not.

For many years, my mother also farmed a big vegetable garden. When you’re a kid, you don’t appreciate all the hard, forced labor working in mom’s garden; to a kid, it’s like some sort of prison work camp, and you don’t even like to eat the fruits of your labor! Then when you grow up, and have some land of your own, you plant your own gardens and learn to love the taste of those fresh vegetables and herbs.

I was probably only six or seven years old at the time, maybe younger, but I remember, back in Rochester, New York, the wood stake and wire supports for climbing beans and peas, and grandpa showing me how the fresh, little tendrils would coil around anything as they journeyed higher each day, eager to touch the sun. He showed me how to pick them, and how to split open the pea pods to reveal the row of small, green globes inside. Today I can almost see myself from an outside perspective, curious and interested in what my grandfather was showing me, but I still didn’t want anything to do with eating those peas.

Grandma and grandpa moved to Michigan after we did – to be closer to us, and near to other relatives who lived in the Grand Rapids area. In my teen years, one early summer, grandpa and I went out back to the old, detached  garage  – I don’t even remember why anymore – and he went to check the garden. When he came back, he looked pleased, and he was carrying a single strawberry. He said it was the first of the season, and that he was going to bring it inside for grandma – it would make her happy. He set it down, and we went about our original business for a while before we turned to go back inside. Grandpa was getting forgetful with his age, and I reminded him about the strawberry.

Being a typical teenager at the time, I thought it was a little funny he almost left that single, red berry in the garage. I knew it was something nice he wanted to do for grandma, but it just seemed so small and insignificant at the time. It was just one tiny strawberry, right? It wasn’t until years later that I really understood.

It’s funny how such a little thing has stuck with me for so long, but sometimes love is all about the little things: a smile shared after a hard day, holding the door even after decades together, planting the flowers she likes, or bringing in the first strawberry of the season.


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