For a few weeks now, I've been waking up a good hour before my usual time. I don't know why, or how to kick the habit. I've tried just staying in bed, eyes closed; I've tried slipping out quietly for a cup of water and going back to bed til light begins to show between the blinds...no help. Instead, I give in and get up and get going on the project of the day. This week, after the arrival of the rest of my belongings from storage (oh, the too many things I'd forgotten I had!), mornings have found me moving furniture, room by room.
At first it seemed overwhelming. The removal men tried to help, at least placing the bulkiest in their appropriate places, upstairs and down. The smaller pieces, though, I told them to leave for me to arrange when a sane moment descended. They cluttered the middle of each room. I have been working since then toward a reasonable order, twisting and turning things one room at a time.
Last Saturday, by five-thirty or so, I began attacking the kitchen...torn walls still awaiting tile, new flooring not yet arrived, recently abandoned and neatly labeled paint cans piled here and there, flecks of sawdust in new drawers and cupboards, etc. It seemed impossible, which is admittedly not my usual reaction where space is concerned. But I needed a kitchen, so I picked up a damp rag and plowed on, or in.
I was hard at it, cutting shelf liners but seeming to get nowhere, when, around eight, a face appeared at the back door, announcing, "Nana! Come on! We're going strawberry picking!"
Talk about a brain-stopper. "Oh, Alexander," I said, "I can't go now...I'm trying to get through this kitchen...look at the mess! You go and have fun."
"It looks fine to me," said the boy coming through the door. "Besides, it's Saturday! Saturday is for playing."
Was it he or the universe speaking? No matter...I hope I know a life message when I hear one.
"Okay," I told him. "Just let me get my shoes on."
And off we went, strawberry picking at Waller Family Farms a few miles away. In the truck, Alexander was excited. "We did this last year, and the year before and the year before that!" My mood was lifting by the minute.
It's good we got there as early as we did; the lot for parking, a field hard-trenched with tractor tracks, had already attracted a crowd of families eager to get out and do something on a nice Saturday morning. (Apparently, they heard the same message I did, or else they didn't need to...) The cheerful greeter pointed us to the next open register, where his mother or aunt noted that we had brought back our baskets from last year. Joseph wanted eggs, too, so she put a dozen aside, saying "I'll keep these here, because I think we might be running out."
The fields stretched long and wide before us, but most people, for some reason, were farther off. Alexander went straight to the one he wanted, a few rows in, and began to give me lessons. "Now, don't pick the ones with holes in them...there might be a bug." And "look for the big ones!"
We took parallel rows. The sun, warming quickly, drew the pungent scent of berries as we plucked them, eating a few along the way. "Leave some for the people coming," Joseph told him, "let's move up a little. Look! there are lots more here."
There was little chance anyone would run out of pickings. Strawberries were ripening in clumps all along the rows. Our gallon baskets were quickly filled. More people, mostly with children, were pouring through, and back at the parking field it looked like a timid version of a free-for-all SUV derby. We waited for one car to move, blocked by another blocking the exit, and a third not sure what it was doing. In between people walked, children darted, car doors slammed shut or flew open.
On the way home, we thought of all the things we could make with our gallons of strawberries: strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake, strawberry muffins, strawberry jam to put in jam thumbprints, strawberry shakes, strawberries with cream, strawberry and pecan salad...
My gallon, by the way, is half empty already, just from nibbling a few at a time over these last days. Tonight the boys are coming over for dinner...guess what's on the menu for dessert?