There are few fruits that I can tolerate. Apples are boring; good for warding off doctors, perhaps, like a necklace of garlic to a vampire. Melons are too much work for too little gain. Bananas are foul, erect phalluses. How they’re allowed in the grocery store is beyond me.
But the strawberry. The simple little strawberry. Not those huge, flavourless monsters in the grocery store, but a proper, well-grown strawberry full of juice and delight, bright red. That is a fruit I like.
We used to go strawberry picking when I was young. My grandfather would take me out for a hike, and he knew this one spot, rarely visited or touched, where strawberries grew wild. We would gorge ourselves, occasionally he would tell me some great secret of life – he had many to share – and we would return home, happy and full. My grandmother would be so annoyed that we spoiled our dinner, but he would hand her a small pail of strawberries, take the second pail and whip up a strawberry shortcake in no time, and all would be forgiven.
After he died, my mother and I would go to that little patch. I had to show her, the first few times, how to get there. Something must have changed, and over the years the patch grew smaller and smaller, but we enjoyed it as long as we could.
For years after, we would go to those u-pick strawberry places. The berries themselves weren’t as good as those old wild ones, but they were still tasty, and it was the act, really, of harvesting them together that my mother and I enjoyed so much. She would always make goofy little songs, calling me her little Strawberry Shortcake, even though I was in my twenties by then.
I kept going after she died. First on my own – the first year was especially difficult, remembering all the times with her – but later with friends, then partners, finally my spouse. Now I take my own kid. We laugh, and play, and pick berries, and she complains about the hard work of picking the berries, and I call her my little Strawberry Shortcake.
I’d be fine if every other fruit disappeared, by strawberries…strawberries are important.