One day this winter, Levi saw an episode of Caillou where he went with a friend to a berry patch to pick fresh berries. He was just mesmerized by the whole thing so I told him that I would take him berry picking this summer when the season was right. Ever since then he has asked me at least once a week if it was time to go pick berries yet. He was not about to let me forget, so a couple weeks ago I woke him up one morning and told him that "today was the day ... it was time to go pick BERRIES!"
Oh, he was ecstatic!
There is a fantastic berry farm about 3 miles from my house, but for whatever reason, they won't allow children under twelve in the fields. What's the fun in berry picking if you can't make it a family affair? I don't get it. So, I found another farm that was supposed to be a great one and their crop is huge so they were opened almost every morning until noon for picking. It was just in the next town over, but it was so far out in the country that it took us nearly an hour to get there from our house. Plenty of time to get the boys good and excited for their big adventure!
We pulled up to the farm and were greeted by a big friendly golden retriever. The boys were in love with him and he planted himself firmly next to our car the entire time we were there.
Out in the fields it was H-O-T hot. Like, blazing hot. It didn't seem to bother the boys as they took off running down the trails, picking and gathering and tasting the berries all the while. We tried to find the plumpest, darkest blueberries we could and left the green ones on the vine to ripen. Levi loved getting a mini lesson in farming. (We had a big lesson on the way home, and now he wants to be a farmer.)
(Note: I'm not the best person to teach a lesson on farming. I came to realize this when Levi was telling Daddy all he learned about farming and he said, "in the old old old days, if people wanted to eat they had to grow and harvest it themselves and almost everyone had a farm. If they wanted potatoes, they grew potatoes. If they wanted corn, they grew corn. If they wanted grilled cheeses, they grew grilled cheeses." HA! I'm not exactly a horticulturist, so to speak....)
As we got deeper into the field, we had our bucket half full and I thought I was on the verge of a heat stroke. I was starting to perspire and my makeup was starting to run. I was running out of breath and my clothes were getting tight because I was swelling. My rings felt like twine around meaty little sausages.
I had to get out of there FAST.
Out of absolutely nowhere this man popped out of a bush and came right up to my face. Was I imagining this? Was this heat exhaustion causing me to hallucinate? Was I dying?
"Hi there. What is your name?", he asked as he stuck out his hand.
I shook it (hesitantly) and told him I was Whitney and that this was Levi and Ezra. He told me his name but I could barely understand him. Because he was FRENCH.
In the Middle-of-Nowhere, Oklahoma, a french man popped out of a blueberry bush and came within inches of my face. This had to be a hallucination. Was I really in France at a vineyard? Was I going to come-to and be laying in a hospital bed somewhere? Had we really even GONE to a blueberry patch that morning or was I still asleep and dreaming? It was all too weird.
I looked all around us and there was no one else in sight. Great. That's just what I needed. To be kidnapped by a frenchman deep inside a blueberry field when all I was trying to do was give my boys a fun morning on the farm.
I hesitantly backed away a little bit, both hands on the boys, and he stepped forward, too, patting Levi's head and said, "he is four, no?" I told him he was, and then he touched Ezra's head and said, "he is one, no?" I told him he was very good at the age game and he went on to tell me (in his accent so thick I was doing all I could to embrace my inner Napoleon Bonaparte so I could understand) that he has four boys and that they are all grown now.
(I used Napoleon Bonaparte as an example because he's the only French guy I could think of. Horticulture and French trivia are obviously not my strong suite. But heavens to Betsy, I love their decor!)
Then he took a handful of blueberries from his bucket, shoved them up next to my nose and said, "pick from that row over there ... the blueberries are sweeter than sugar. Delicious!" (He even put his fingers to his mouth and kissed it as he threw them back up into the air. I felt like that was so stereotypical that it HAD to be my hallucination!) He asked for my hand as he generously dumped a handful from his stash into my palm. He then said his goodbyes and disappeared as quickly as he came.
In my theatrical mind, first he was a French kidnapper. And now that he was gone, and obviously not stealing us, there was no other explanation than him being a French angel, sent to brighten our day.
I mean, he came out of nowhere, knew the boy exact ages, was kind and generous, disappeared as quickly as he came. Yup. Definitely an angel.
Unless the load of berries he gave to me were laced with poison and he was plotting our demise...
Maybe a tad.
Obviously there was no possible way that he was just a friendly man from France, out picking blueberries on his summer vacation to Oklahoma. I mean, that wasn't even plausible. ;)
I let the boys pick as many as they wanted and pretty soon they told me they were hot and asked if we could head to the car. I laughed when I went to pay for our berries. There were people with multi gallon buckets filled to the brim and our lonesome teeny bucket was half full. The price was $3 per lb., and our total was $3. Bless those babies hearts. We may not have had the most berries, but by golly we had the BEST ONES!
As I was paying, my new FrenchBFF was driving off and he stopped to roll down his window and wave wildly from his car, screaming something to us in that accent of his. I waved au revoir and went on my merry way, just happy to be alive. What an interesting morning.
At this point the three of us were dripping in sweat, so I took the boys for a proper lunch at Steak-n-Shake for a burger (grilled cheese) and an icy refreshing shake. The perfect way to cap off a sweltering hot, nearly fatal, seemingly angelic morning!
I enjoy these boys so much. They're truly my little buddies and they are so much FUN!
Levi wanted to make a pie this weekend from the berries he picked, and the recipe called for 3 cups. When I went to measure it out, he had picked EXACTLY three cups! Not a berry more, not a berry less. Now if it hadn't been for our frenchman friend, we would have been short a good handful. So, my deductive reasoning leads me to believe that he was, in fact, an angel. And he wanted us to have a perfect blueberry pie. :)
Memories. Sweet memories.
This is what life is all about.