Blueberry bushes are portals to the past

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

By Harold Brummett
Denmark Star Route

My sister Genell came over to pick blueberries the other day and it seemed like old times.

Genell is ten years older and her memories of our childhood are different than mine. At seventeen my mother gave birth to Genell, at home with our Dad and Dr. Reid in attendance.

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Genell is now the family matriarch, the one I go to with questions about lineage or who is who in the family black and white photos.

I vaguely remember as a small child lying on a pallet at the end of the cotton rows while the cotton was harvested. Was that actually me or a story of someone like me? Genell corrects when my memory fades into what I remember of our past and the stories I was told.

Genell and I take day trips together. Sometimes we go to the casino, sometimes to look at graves of great-grandparents born in the early 1800’s.

Sometimes we just ride and look. It is time we take another trip. Good times together, but not like berry picking. I tell stories my mother told me of brothers, sisters, relatives and friends from the 1930s and 1940s. Stories of my grandfather whom I never met. Stories of characters like Sambo Goodnight, D.F. Gant, Mack Gant, Aunt Maude and too many others to name.

While not exactly bedtime stories for kids, they were fascinating tales of exploits of people who while in the Great Depression were not of the Great Depression. Stories of getting over, getting by, and getting along. Sometimes sorrow, but sorrow as a bridge to get to the next place of laughter and life. Genell adds to or corrects these memories of stories, sharpening the edges and bringing recollection into focus.

Blackberries are ripe now, but I prefer blueberries. There are no thorns, redbugs, ticks, snakes or other creatures that inhabit brambles to contend with.

So Genell and I pick and talk retelling old stories and sometimes dredging up new ones that the other hasn’t heard. Genell has actually met some of these folks in the stories and I envy her for that.

We move around the blueberry bushes in a generational dance never physically close but always in talking distance. We fill our buckets, and refresh our memories until the heat drives us away leaving birds to continue the harvest.