Posted January 7, 2013on:
We had just finished sixth grade and were at a 4-H meeting at school. I told Shirley the blackberries were ripe behind our house and if she’d help me pick them, we could sell them for a dollar a gallon and split the money. She said she’d ask her mom and maybe come. “Early,” I told her. “That’s when you pick blackberries. We can pick all day.” I went home and forgot all about our business venture. I was still getting adjusted to living in the country, a new baby sister, and no telephone. With no air conditioning, I usually slept with my pillow near the window of my small room. At 5:00am someone pushed my screen aside, reached into my window, and grabbed a handful of my hair. I nearly had a heart attack! It was barely light but I could see my grinning attacker. “Shirley! What are you doing here?” I asked, completely forgetting my business proposition. She quickly told me she’d come to pick blackberries! I watched her mom’s black car slowly drive away. I opened the window and Shirley climbed into my room, perplexed that I wasn’t ready to go. By this time, my mom had heard us talking and opened my door, shocked at my early morning visitor. I quickly dressed while Shirley explained that she brought six sandwiches: three for breakfast and three for lunch. My mom couldn’t believe she had that much food, so Shirley opened the bag and showed us. There were three sausage-patty sandwiches with mustard, and three egg sandwiches. “They’re all half-sandwiches,” I said. “Yes,” she told me, “But there’s a whole egg on every egg sandwich.” I agreed and asked my mom to fix me exactly the same. She heated up her black skillet and matched Shirley’s meals, then made a thermos of sweet iced tea. She gave us buckets for the berries and seemed to be glad when we left.
To this day, I don’t ever remember a day being more fun than that long-ago summer day. We found the berry patches and picked diligently for a while. However, being kids, we tired easily of work and took many breaks. Shirley and I waded in creeks, rolled down hills, climbed trees, and swung on grape vines. We ate all the sandwiches, carefully separating breakfast from lunch, and drank all the tea. We ate nearly as many berries as we picked. I remember how we laughed and told each other every story we knew, true or untrue. We hiked through the woods, singing and pretending to be making a movie. We shared life experiences and dreams. When both buckets were full and it was almost time for supper, we headed home. My parents were shocked by the amount of berries and the fact that we had spent the entire day picking. Shirley and I didn’t notice the heat or the bugs or the briars. We were just two adventurous young friends having a good time. We probably cleared $5.00 apiece from my grandmother who made blackberry jam. Shirley’s mom appeared, as always, at just the right time to take Shirley home.
When I visited Shirley for the last time, I whispered to her, “When you get well, we’ll go pick some blackberries.” I thought she didn’t hear me, but after a few seconds, she whispered, “I wonder if they have blackberries in Heaven.” I assured her they probably did. And I bet they do. When I get there, I’m going to find Shirley and we’re going to go on the blackberry hunt of all time.