It amazes me how little time I actually get to spend with Grace since she began working in February. She had a summer job last year, but having a job that requires her to be gone from home between 20 and 30 hours a week, plus working two evenings, leaves us very little bonding time. I knew I missed her, but not how much until we went strawberry picking yesterday morning.
Grace had to be at work by 11:30. The orchard where we were going opened at 8:00. It was going to take us 30 minutes to get there. Does this sound like one of those story problems from Algebra II or what?
I got out of bed at 6:00 and got ready. Grace got up at 6:30. I told her she could sleep until 7:00, but she was anxious to spend time with me. Not as excited as I was. I made us a fresh pot of coffee, we filled our cups, and were on our way to the orchard by 7:15. I wanted to be sure to be there when they opened, giving us the most possible time to pick before we needed to head back.
The weather was perfect. 62° and sunny, with a light breeze. There was very little traffic on our side of the road, as all the cars were heading the way were coming from. Grace was in a good mood and we were both ready for some heavy-duty picking.
At 7:45 we arrived at Blake’s Orchard and there was a car at the entrance picking up flats. They were already open! I pulled in behind him and asked for three flats. Following the signs to the back of the orchard, we found row after row of strawberries for the picking. The car in front of us was the only other person there.
With flats in hand and towels to kneel on we headed out into the field. Three or four rows in Grace started picking. Taking the row next to her, I put my towel down and the competition commenced. Somehow Grace got it in her head that she was going to pick more than me and find the biggest and reddest berry. Silly girl! I have years of experience on my side — she insisted she had youth on her side.
For an hour and a half we picked, talked, caught up, laughed, teased, and enjoyed. All the while Grace kept telling me, “I wish I didn’t have to go to work, then we could spend all day together.” Music to my ears. How I wish she didn’t have to go to work either. Still, we did have the morning.
After all three flats were full and I had picked the largest strawberry and Grace had picked the reddest, we headed back to the entrance to see what the damage was. We’d picked 35 pounds. At $1.65 a pound — math again! — you get the picture. We paid for the berries then headed into the store for fresh donuts to eat with our lukewarm coffee. You’d have thought the coffee would have been cold, but the car was pretty warm with the sun beating down on it.
I so love going to the stores at orchards. Although it is very early in the season, there are always hot fresh donuts, fresh pressed cider, and I even found fresh picked rhubarb. Perfect. Now I had everything I needed for strawberry-rhubarb pie and jam, plus any other recipes I could find to try with rhubarb.
Grace bought the donuts and we enjoyed a breakfast picnic under the outside tent at a picnic table. Nothing like hot donuts, lukewarm coffee, and my daughter’s undivided attention and company for an entire morning.
On our way home we stopped off at an estate sale (nothing of interest there), picked up a couple more cases of canning jars that were BOGO 50% off, and enjoyed the drive with the windows down and the country air blowing through the hair. It was absolutely perfect.
For the past couple of weeks I have been cranky and edgy when driving Grace to and from work, but couldn’t put my finger on why. I think I’m a little bitter that her work is infringing on “Our Time.” I know this is only to be expected more and more as she gets older and more independent, but yesterday I had her all to myself for an entire morning like the good ole days and for this I am — Simply Grateful.