5/8/08

Summer Story: Gracie's Blueberries

Gracie plopped down in a lawn chair in the backyard. She felt a little tired after her flight, but too excited to rest. Her teenage grandson Josh sat nearby.

“Have a good trip, Gram?”

“Yes, but when do we start picking? If I knew where the patch was, I’d skedaddle down there right now.”

“It’s too late.” Josh yawned. “We’ll go first thing in the morning.”

“Good. I came to pick, not to sleep.”

Josh grinned. “I know, Gram. You’re amazing. You’re like the energizer bunny [capitalize proper nouns] and you’re eighty-two. What’s your secret?”

“Keeping busy. You’re only as old as you feel.” Gracie didn’t feel eighty-two. She still felt like a girl was hiding inside until she looked at a picture of herself. Then she knew the years had passed. Yet when she was picking berries the memories flooded back. Maybe that’s why she loved doing it.


The morning dawned perfect for picking blueberries. Gracie dressed in a long sleeve striped shirt, baggy jeans, and wide brimmed hat. Josh put on his old soccer jersey, shorts, and sandals. They bounced along the gravel road in his red pickup toward the farm. A rustic sign announced the patch didn’t open until nine.

“Why isn’t that farmer up yet?” Gracie sounded amazed. “We’ve got work to do!”

“It’s only a half hour,” [grammar] Josh said. He stretched his legs, clasped his hands behind his head, and leaned back. “Let’s listen to the radio.”

“I’ve got a better idea.” Gracie opened the door and climbed out. “I haven’t done my four miles yet. Let’s find that farmer and wake him up.”

“All right, Gram,” Josh groaned. “I’m coming. I don’t want you to get lost.”

They returned [from where? Did they get the farmer?] exactly at nine, but the patch was terrible. They found only a few bushes with small berries. It took a long time to fill their shiny pails.

“I’m done,” Josh announced. “This is boring. Wish I’d brought my IPod.“ [When you use brand names, make sure you get them right — iPod.]

“Keep picking,” Gracie prodded him. “Still berries on those bushes over there. We don’t want them to go to waste.”

Don’t waste, Gracie heard her mother’s voice from somewhere long ago. Gracie’s fingers were still picking berries, but they were short and stubby. Her auburn hair was pulled back in two tight braids. The berries weren’t blue anymore, but dark purple, and she was picking huckleberries in the hills near her home with her mother. Gracie was trying to pick fast, but in her haste she bumped her pail and the berries scattered on the ground. She knelt down and tried to find them. Food was precious and those berries would taste wonderful next winter when fruit was scarce.

“Don’t you have enough?” Josh’s voice broke into her thoughts. “No more berries here. Let’s find a better patch.”

“You’re not looking hard enough.” Gracie pulled branches up to reveal hidden berries. “Search for the treasure.”

An hour later Gracie felt satisfied she had gleaned every precious berry from the patch. She laughed with delight when the farmer weighed the berries and announced they had picked fourteen pounds from bushes Josh thought were empty.


The next day she bribed Josh with a promise of a Big Mac so he drove her to another patch. Here they found a blueberry boulevard, with tons of empty bushes with sparse clusters of berries hidden on low branches. Bending down they filled their pails faster this time, but Josh hated kneeling in the dirt.

“This is hard,” he complained. “I liked the first patch better.”

“You’re doing great, “Gracie urged.

“What are you going to do with all these berries?” Josh asked, annoyed.

“Keep picking. I’ll use them all. I’ll make some pies. . .”

She leaned down to grab another bunch of berries. Her hair tumbled over her face. She noticed it wasn’t short and gray, but rather in long curls like when she was thirteen. Good job, Gracie girl, she heard her mother’s voice again. Your first blueberry pie. We’ll have some for supper. Gracie felt proud. Then a knock sounded on the door. A hobo stood outside, his hat in his hands. She wished her mother would send him away. They had a big family and didn’t have food to spare. Instead her mother invited him in, fed him some soup and a big piece of her pie. That night there was only a tiny piece left for her.

After a full day of picking they drove home. Gracie felt tired, but happy. Her body ached in a few new places, but she didn’t let that stop her. She immediately started sorting and washing berries. Her daughter urged her to relax after dinner, but she had a pie to make. She imagined how excited the family would be to taste one made from fresh picked blueberries, but they scattered in a thousand directions. By the time she finished, she ate her big piece alone.


“Wake up, Josh,” Gracie knocked on his bedroom door. “Time to go berrying. This is my last day. I’m flying back tomorrow.”

She heard some moans from behind the door, but within an hour Josh and Gracie were driving up a bumpy road toward another farm. Gracie became excited. “Oh, look!” She exclaimed and clapped her hands like a child. “Those bushes are loaded. We’ve found blueberry heaven.”

Moments after Josh stopped, Gracie jumped out and headed for the patch, her eyes shining. “Look at those big berries.” Her hands worked like a machine: picking furiously, filling the pail, dumping it in the bucket. She paused only a few seconds now and then to sample a fresh berry. She shut her eyes and chewed slowly, savoring the sweetness. It tasted so good she wanted another, but reminded herself to keep picking. No time to fritter, she thought. There’s work to be done.

She slipped into overdrive. Her hands grabbed bunches of berries and the pail filled rapidly. The sun blazed on her back, but she kept working. Suddenly she noticed a glittering on her ring finger . Sparkles like a diamond, she thought. But I don’t wear my ring anymore. She blinked and looked down at her finger. A diamond sparkled in the sun. She touched her face, her neck. They felt smooth and tight. She saw her husband Peter who had been gone for thirty years. He was working beside her as he had always done: weeding the garden, harvesting the potatoes, hauling the hay. Together again.

A gnat buzzed by her eyes. She stopped picking and swooshed it away. Now her ring finger looked bare. She glanced over her shoulder. Peter was gone. Instead she saw Josh. Funny, but she’d never noticed how much he looked like Peter with his curly black hair and legs like telephone poles.

“Are you okay, Gram?” He looked at her with a puzzled expression. “Do you think we have enough? We’ve filled six big buckets and it’s almost noon.”

“It is?” Gracie felt surprised. Where had the hours flown? Where had her life gone?

“Let me finish filling this pail and then I’ll be done,” she promised.

The young farmer scratched his head in amazement as he weighed the buckets. “You’ve got seventy pounds and you haven’t been here that long. You folks must pick fast.”

Josh shook his head. “Not me. My gram. She’s a machine.”

The farmer chuckled. “She’s one of those. . . I think they called them the greatest generation. Those folks who lived through the Depression and World War II.”

“Thanks.” Gracie smiled. “We just did what we had to do.” Then she patted Josh on the back. “Josh is from a great generation too. He’s picked berries with me for three days.”


Gracie sorted, cleaned, and packed her blueberries into cartons. She filled two suitcases and her carry-on and left a big container for Josh. [She flew in just to pick berries and then took them home in her suitcases?! Is this even allowed? I don't buy it. Have her drive in from out of town—maybe she lives a few hours away. Or have an aunt or grandchild drive her in. That's more believable.] “I’m going to miss you, Gram,” he said as he hugged her at the airport.

“Me too.” She squeezed him tight. “Don’t forget your promise.”

“I won’t. Mom’s going to help me make a pie tonight.

“That’s why I love the young people today. The boys make pies; the girls drive trucks.”

She watched him drive away and then walked into the airport, pulling her carry-on full of berries. She hoped they all arrived back home safely. Next winter when the winds howled and the snow drifted, she would eat blueberry pancake, muffins, and pies. In a burst of blue sweetness, the summer would come again.

Got a few grammar/structure issues, but not bad. When using brand names you need to include the ™ or the ® symbols. Some authors don't and their publishers let them get away with it, but it's the law.

Would have liked to see more interaction between her and the grandson, more comparison and contrast between them. I would also like to see him change something about himself due to her example.

What I liked best: I liked her remembering the past as she picked. Would have liked to see that in more detail.

Magazine ready? Almost. Needs just a bit more development and clean up.

5 comments:

Melanie Goldmund said...

I vote for this one.

Weston Elliott said...

I vote for this one! It reminds me of my mom.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I vote for this one.

Gamila said...

I vote for this one!

Trisa said...

I vote for this one. TC