For lunch, we have somma borscht, made with fresh sorrel from mom's garden.
Belly full, dad shuffles over to his reclining chair for an afternoon nap. Mom leaves him a note:
"We went strawberry picking :)"
I tell mom that I want strawberries, but what I want is to go to the strawberry fields with her.
At eighty-eight, she wouldn't dream of buying ready-picked, or sending me and my sister to the fields without her.
And so we are together in the prairie sun and wind, remarking on the succulent berries, the well kept rows, the abundance of fruit. We pick together- mom's six pails, Kathy's one, and the four that I pretend to need.
I love being with my mom on the field. She says funny and wise and optimistic things. She moves much more slowly than last year, but never once would you hear her complain. She says that when her knees hurt, she imagines that a physiotherapist might tell her that exercise would be just the thing- so she keeps moving.
We bring mom home with her berries and find dad still safe and sound in his favorite chair, so we part ways. Later that afternoon, I offer to deliver some berries that a friend has picked to her grandmother, who lives in my town. She lives just up the street from me, in a sprawling senior's complex. Not having had much reason to visit there before, I have a little trouble finding the correct apartment number and wander around outside for a bit until a lady opens her door and calls out- "Are you looking for someone?" And I explain that I'm there to deliver berries but can't find the number. "Come on through here", she says, ushering me into her gazebo and straight on through her home to the connecting corridor. Her husband is cutting roll Kuchen, a favorite Mennonite fried bread that is a must-have accompaniment to summer watermelon.
She leads me through long corridors until we find the right door, and behind it, the right lady. I pass over the berries, and we chat about strawberry season in Manitoba. My new tour guide tells me how she used to have berries on her farm, and how she likes them not too big- they have more flavour that way. And that she'd like to get some yet this year. Pre-picked, as she's left her picking days behind her.
We weave our way back down through corridors and back through her apartment. I'm halfway back to my van when I turn back- "Hey! I picked berries with my mother just this morning but I don't actually need all of them- would you like two pails?" And with that, we have a contract.
When I return again to their gazebo, I have the pails in hand. I'm relieved of the duty to hull and freeze fruit that I didn't really want in the first place. They are happy to see such beautiful berries.
And we eat some rull kuchen together.