Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, mid-to-late August means the blueberry bogs are open for everyone to come and fill their pails. And for years my dear friend and I trekked out at the end of August with our little ones to gather berries. We talked about life, love, but mostly we reminded the children to fill the pails, not just their mouths.
But the last few years we haven’t gone. The first season this happened, it was due to a weather delay- an unusually cool summer meant the berries weren’t ripe until after everyone returned to school. The second time, despite a flurry of planning emails, we never could coordinate our calendars. There was not a single day that could accommodate the schedules of four children and two moms. And this year? It hasn’t even come up in conversation.
Somehow, this cherished annual tradition has swiftly ended, and I have nothing to show for it. The berries, even those we froze, are long gone. My older child has only hazy memories of these summer days, and the younger one has no recollections at all. I can still feel soggy toes, full stomachs and stained shirts, but there is no proof we were ever there.
And for a while, I worried. I hadn’t babybooked, scrapbooked or photo albummed, never mind instagrammed or facebooked these blueberry days. But then I tried to reassure myself, I never actually look at my own baby book. And I wondered, why is that?
Because childhood isn’t about saving, it’s about savoring. Being fully present in the exact moment.
Sometimes, this is a painful thing. When we witness an inconsolable two-and-a-half year-old melting down over a toy. Sometimes, it is a beautiful thing. When we watch a delighted three year-old gasp at the sight of a ladybug.
Robert McCloskey’s Sal let each blueberry land in the empty pail, rattle around, hear it’s own echo. As adults, we can learn from this. For the practice of stockpiling memories is antithetical to a child’s experience. It is is about living each distinct event, not worrying about how we will remember them.
It isn’t whether Sal saves her blueberries or eats them – it is that she is spending time with her mother. Experiencing love. That is all we need to remember.