The first time I ever picked strawberries I was with my boyfriend. He's now my husband. So it only made sense that something we enjoyed so much together would become a family tradition when we had our son.
The first year we all went, Colin was about 6-months-old. There are pictures of me grinning manically while he squished a strawberry in his little hand and drooled on my shoulder.
The next year he was more into it, but not as enthusiastic as I would have imagined. Of course he had been promised milkshakes afterwards by his Aunt Kayla, so it makes sense that his thoughts were elsewhere. But this year I knew would be golden. He's now three, he eats strawberries, he likes destroying things - perfect.
By Colin's decree, his Grammie and Aunt Kayla once again joined us. After having a mild winter, it was cool outside, but the strawberries were insane. They were everywhere. Even the hoards of people who were fighting for parking spots couldn't pick all these berries. Perfect weather, perfect strawberries, perfect day, right? Well, perfection is overrated.
First of all, nothing is easy with a 3-year-old. Is it fun? Heck yeah! To see that little light bulb go off as he experiences new things, to know he's learning and having fun, to see his eyes light up - it's fantastic. Plus he's funny and has a great imagination, so spending time with him is top of the list of favorite things, along with coffee, sushi and Judge Judy. It had rained the night before so it was a little sloppy (i.e. muddy) outside in between the strawberry beds. My husband pointed this out but I quickly shushed him. We were picking strawberries today, mud or no mud.
Colin actually enjoyed the mud. He stomped a little and then, with my permission, got to get on his knees in it in order to pick the berries. My rationalization that he could just bend over and pick the berries was met with a blank stare.
"But Mommy, I can't get the strawberry waaaayyyy back there. And it looks like a heart, so I was going to pick it for you to share with me."
My resolve shattered. My child will no doubt be a heathen one day as long as he stays charming.
Quickly into the picking he became bored. At two, he was diligent; at three, he just wanted to play in the mud, eat the strawberries and run. Run like a mad man to the end of the strawberry aisle, run back, screeching like a pterodactyl, to the patch of berries being picked, smile for a picture, then eat another berry. It took a ridiculous amount of time to pick a bucket of strawberries. Colin may have picked half a bucket and ate half of that, dirt and all. My protests of bugs, dirt, pesticides and catching something fell on deaf ears. My husband pulled a face at me and scoffed. Colin argued that since the strawberries tasted good, bugs must be good and birds eat bugs. That was the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned.
But you know what? That's part of the fun of it. Muddy jeans and strawberry finger smears on T-shirts can be erased with a little Oxy spray. And if not, I can always buy another shirt. You know what I can't buy? Memories of my little boy screaming with joy, pretending he's Buzz Lightyear in a strawberry patch. And I can't erase those either - like I would want to.
Amber is the senior reporter at The Covington News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.