The 1948 picture book Blueberries for Sal never fails to take me back to my childhood. My parents used to read it to me at bedtime until I was old enough to read it to them instead. I loved hearing about Sal and her mother going blueberry picking to stock up for the winter. Sal starts picking berries and dropping them into her pail, but soon she is eating more than she is collecting. She drops one into her mother’s pail, but the bottom is already covered with berries and doesn’t sound kuplink.
When I was younger, my dad and I went berry picking together. He always knew what fruit was in season, and we picked countless flats of blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries together on Sauvie Island. He would always rush to get as many berries as possible so we could make a pie or just have an ample supply to toss over ice cream.
I, on the other hand, had other plans. Like Sal, I was far more interested in eating juicy, sweet berries as I picked them than I was in saving them for later. We even had a blueberry bush in our backyard, and I fondly remember running down the long path on the side of the house and being rewarded with as many plump morsels as I could reach.
Berry picking and eating was one of the highlights of my summer, and one of the few distinct images I can remember from my childhood without the help of pictures and videos to spark my memory. That blueberry bush was more than a plant to me. It was a source of simple, summery innocent joy.