The recent fiery temperatures didn’t keep me from heading to the West Virginia hills to pick fresh berries. Nor did it stop my mother.
We didn’t scavenge in the mountains for wild blueberry bushes. We drove to the peak of Bunners Ridge where lush green treetops mingle with the deep blue sky. There, the bushes of Blueberry Ridge Farm stretch north, south, east, west—row after row after row.
The berries seemed more difficult to come by this year. By that I mean it took a little longer to find ripe blues to fill our buckets. That may have been because we picked the first week the farm opened. Or maybe it had something to do with the owners offering a preorder and pick-up option.
It mattered not. For us, the berries aren’t as sweet if we don’t do the picking. The temperature hovered around 90-degrees, but our blueberry goals proved stronger than the heat. Plus, for our clash with the sun, we dressed for the win. We wore breathable, long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats.
Mom filled her quota before I made mine and took a seat at a covered table to wait for me. I picked up the pace until both of my buckets overflowed with the sweetest blueberries to meet my lips. I’ve always been a grazer when it comes to berry-picking.
When we were in single digits, my brothers and I ventured into the mountains every summer to pick blackberries for our mother. Blackberries weren’t the boys’ favorite, which is why they always returned with full buckets. Me? I ambled in behind them, swinging a half-full bucket and sporting dark blue splotches on my face and hands.
Mom and I celebrated our hot berry-picking success by driving straight to Dairy Queen Dream (Corner). Always the smart one, she opted to stay seated in the air-conditioned car while I took my place in line.
I planned to order a “baby” vanilla cone dipped in chocolate—the same as Mom.
But the four people in line ahead of me gave me a chance to look at pictures posted on the glass windows: milkshakes, French fries, and sundaes. Then, my eyes froze in front of the prettiest banana split I’ve ever seen.
Three swirls of soft-serve ice cream in a banana-lined boat topped with pineapple, chocolate, and strawberry and dabs of whipped cream. It had been years since I’d treated myself to a banana split. Surely, I had sweated-off enough calories in the heat of blueberry picking to compensate.
I said to myself, “Self, no.”
Myself answered, “Oh, yes.”
Oh, how I wish I had a picture of my face when I stepped up to the window to retrieve the biggest small banana split in history. I’m talking Paul Bunyan-sized with cherries on top.
“That can’t be the small,” I protested.
“Honey, the large is twice this size,” said the server.
As I approached the car, my mother’s eyes grew wide. She laughed so long and hard that her ice cream dripped down its cone.
That evening, my brother the state trooper called me.
“I investigated an attempted murder today,” he said.
“No way,” I said.
“Not kidding,” said my brother. “A woman tried to kill her mother by taking her blueberry-picking in 90-degree heat.”
“You didn’t hear the whole story,” I said. “On the way to the blueberry farm, they stopped at the attorney’s office to make sure the mother’s will was in order. And, by the way, there were two homicide attempts. After they picked berries, the mother tried to drown her daughter in a ginormous banana split.”
Both victims survived, happy and well-fed.
writer, blogger, columnist