My friend, Robin, is the most creative and gracious hostess.
Robin and her family live in a quaint English cottage that is nestled in the woods of an ordinary suburban neighborhood. It is charming and anachronistic. The house — called Deer Cottage — is filed with antiques and treasured family pieces, the walls are hung with original artwork, and books are stacked on floors and every surface. Guineas roam the yard, which is blooming with wildflowers.
Robin’s 5-year-old daughter, Hope, calls it a “tidy little house,” and that strikes me as just the right way to describe their home. In fact, I think Hope’s description sounds like a line from a children’s classic, something from “Winnie the Pooh” or “The Secret Garden.” And that’s befitting, too, for Robin is the type to host book club meetings, readings and art salons in her home.
Recently, Robin invited us and some other friends on a blueberry picking expedition. But this was more than a mere weekday play date. Robin, gracious hostess that she is, provided us with the most memorable experience.
And to think, we almost didn’t go.
You see, Robin scheduled our picking outing at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the hottest day of the year.
103 sweltering degrees!
We arrived at Robin’s house for our crazy, hot adventure and she served us lemonade and iced coffee.
Then, she gathered the children for a reading of “Blueberries for Sal,” the award-winning Robert McCloskey children’s classic about a little girl who goes berry picking with her mother.
In the book, the blueberries make the sound, “Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk,” as they hit the bottom of the tin bucket. We all brought along metal buckets to see if Sal’s story was right — although we hoped not to run into a hungry, blueberry-eating bear during our outing!
We found row after row of blueberry bushes in the hot sun at Starberry Farm, loaded with berries at different stages of maturity. Some were fat and some were tiny, like the blueberries they use for pie in Maine. The ripe one were oh-so-sweet.
We picked and we picked, gulping water to replenish our bodies as our skin glistened from the heat and hard work.
Jackson proclaimed, “I was born for this!”
The children played tricks on the adults. “Roar,” they growled. “Bear,” they screamed and giggled.
Until finally our buckets were full and we were all ready for showers.
We paid for our harvest, learning from the farmer that the Native Americans once called blueberries “star berries” because of the star-shaped scar that remains on the blossom end once they are picked.