Sweet Berries, Sweet Memories, and Sweet, Sweet Freedom!

Blackberry pie for the Fourth of July!

One of the blessings that I took for granted while I was growing up is the fact that I had all four grandparents not only still alive, but very involved in my life. Both my mother and my father's parents lived near by. We saw them for birthdays, holidays, at our band recital's, drama productions (in and out of the home,) and we saw them a lot during the summer.

My father's dad, Norm, was a stoic, quiet man but he had twinkling eyes and a great sense of humor. He was missing both of his little fingers... and the stories he told us kids as to how he lost them? Epic!  

Did you know, for example, that in 1918 or so, if you you picked your nose, and got your finger stuck there (horror!) the doctor was likely to cut it off? AND, if you work in the shipyards (as my grandfather did) you should always look both ways before you cross a log jamb, because a steamship could run over the ONE good pinky you have left? Both true. Or so I believed until around age 10.

I supposed the stories were invented to both entertain and teach some valuable kid lessons, and far less painful for him to tell than the one about the accident with a ban saw, or the bout with blood poisoning that nearly cost him his life.

One of Grandpa Luke's favorite things in the world was berry pie made out of the tiny sweet wild blackberries that are native to the West Coast. When most people think of picking blackberries they think of the big juicy Himalayan variety; good, abundant, but invasive as heck! The native berries that I'm talking about are only available for a few weeks out of the summer, and they are a treasure!

Native Trailing Blackberry

They grow along the ground and over fallen trees next to trails, abandoned roads, and in areas that have been walked. My mom was a relentless berry picker! Every summer she would grab us kids, a couple of buckets, some gloves and we would head to the woods to look for berries. Usually her goal was to pick enough to make a cobbler or as they ripened in July, his birthday month, a birthday pie for Grandpa, of course!

On more than one occasion mom spilled her bucket of berries while picking because she'd seen a snake in the bushes.  Slight segue: Mom was from the Ozark Mountains where snakes were poisonous; Copper Heads, Cotton Mouths, Water Moccasins, etc.  She had no humor about, nor could she train herself, not to be terrified of things that slithered on the Oregon Coast. Even though there was nothing threatening about our little garter snakes, she would invariably scream, jump out of her skin, and send her bucket of berries aflyin'! 

However, with many busy hands we usually got more than enough to make the birthday pie and even with the vast quantity that went into our mouths instead of our buckets, we we had a harvest to be proud of.

This past week I took my kids out in the woods to hunt for berries, and they were as distracted as I was as a kid.  I found myself laughing at how focused my mother used to be, furiously searching, bending, stooping, and picking as my brothers, sister, and I dilly-dallied and thwarted her efforts at every turn. It's true, history does repeat itself.

I'm proud to report I got enough berries to make pies for the 4 of July holiday, and enough to freeze for future pies. My Grandpa Luke has been gone for decades, but every time I bite into a slice of berry pie made from these tiny little berries I think of him, his twinkling eyes, and the pinky he lost from picking his nose...  I'll be thinking of him a lot this coming year.

Victory is mine!

Happy Independence Day my friends! I hope the holiday brings good memories rushing back and provides an opportunity to create plenty of new ones! Be safe, be happy, and Love Someone!

~ Mamma D