There's something about huckleberry picking that brings out the Laura Ingalls Wilder in me.
We went early this morning to one of our secret spots. We sat in the shade. The baby slept in his stroller. Haven plucked and popped berry after berry into his finally silent mouth.
Gussie sat on my lap as my arms reached and stretched to pick the tiniest berries of the most perfect shade of blue -- blue like a robin's egg or like the sky before a storm.
We sang hymns.
"Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling ..."
And we picked and picked and picked. Hands swept over the sweetest blueberries ever made. We were all alone, just the four of us. My cut off jeans transformed into a long, flowing poplin skirt and my buzz cut became a bun, set up high.
I took a break to nurse the baby.
"Calling for you and for me. See on the portals he's waiting and watching ..."
Our favorite spot is behind a Slovakian graveyard. We pass the stones as we arrive and when we leave. We linger. Gussie loves the flags for the soldiers and I love the old names. The Myrtles and the Sophias. The Margarets and the Floralines. The girls who knew hard times in these coal mining hills. The girls who never encountered the concept of folks having disposable income (it really is an oxymoron, anyway, don't you think? ...). The girls who lost husbands and sons in the mines in these here parts (I wonder if their husbands found fulfillment in their jobs ...).
I stare at the dates that have become the summary of their days and feel connected to the Gertrudes and the Marys who also trampled this ground, toddlers in tow, to fill their baskets. The women who never had to learn the hard way the best things in life are free -- sky rocketing gas prices didn't keep Flo and Mable from the mall as they didn't have a mall. But they did have these berries and they did have babies. I'd like to think they simply knew they already had the Best Things. I'd like to think it was more simple back then. Just like I imagine a flowing skirt is rustling the grass at my feet.
I read their names and imagine what life was like when they were young mothers. Perhaps it's some sort of a communion of saints. That or a play date separated a bit by time and space. I read their names and am thankful for the simple life I lead -- thankful for the timeless happiness found in a morning full of berries, babies and singing in the shade.
"Calling, oh sinner, come home."