Wild Strawberries

There are moments in every life that stand as treasures in the heart, riches that are savored throughout the life to its end. When I was 8 or 9 years old, we set out one late 1940s summer afternoon on one of our exploratory tangents off of the Yellow Brick Road and across the pastures of the Norman’s Kill Dairy Farm. The Olander twins were with us, I remember. We used to start out on those cross-country expeditions with no plan, just bring some fingerfood and water and head in a new direction to discover what was there in the world. What an ancient drive that is…

As the sun rose toward noon and the day got hotter while we traveled back and forth all over the landscape the way kids do in their rummaging progress, we ran out of food and out of water, but we didn’t care; this was the time of life when the thrill of the new could defeat hunger and thirst for quite a while, so we went on, and late that afternoon made our great discovery: a broad pond filled with frogs, turtles, fish and frogs’ eggs! And it was all ours! Right there in a dell amidst rolling meadows arched by a blue sky, we could take off our shoes and wade, and be in heaven.

Then one of us made an even more welcome discovery: one whole hillside was blanketed in ripe wild strawberries! For the next long time we crawled around on all fours, hungry and thirsty animals gathering and eating those beautiful, puckery-sweet (and best of all, free) little juicy rubies. When we’d eaten enough to have the patience, we’d save up the tiny red nuggets of sensual magic until we had a good handful, then shove them all in at once and lie down to gaze at the sky while chewing into a deliciousness that rose beyond reach as it became us…

Later on, that berry-fueled walk took us to other new places, a further bend in the Norman’s Kill river we’d never visited, the railroad tracks that followed the river in those parts; and at one point beside them, while walking along the tracks back toward home we saw, as in a different world, below the railbed beside the river – and seemingly isolated thereby from all else – a shanty town for workers from the bottom of the railroad hierarchy. It was a drab village of tarpaper shacks clustered together on a bare dusty tract of land in the searing sun, so as to be close to whatever job the residents did, not all that long after the depression. It was a dismal sight; I stood looking for a long time, as though at things not meant to be seen. Even though I hadn’t much of a past of my own yet, I was very saddened that people lived like this in the modern world.

Little did I know how untested yet was my sadness, or the depths of my own future, soon to be just as starkly contrasted with the highlight of wild strawberries we enjoyed that day. I hope the ragged children I saw there so long ago found wild strawberries in their own way, as I had…

I’ve never been back to that pond or its strawberry hillside, though in one way or another I’ve visited there every day of my life since then…

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3 Responses to Wild Strawberries

  1. Mick Brady says:

    Thanks for bringing it all back to life, Bob; you triggered more than a few (previously dormant) strawberry synapses with this one.

  2. Robert Brady says:

    Glad to be of service, Mick, as you are; strawberry synapses, there are so many of those…

  3. Joy Des Jardins says:


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