July 27, 2012 – How many memories can you wrap up into a little red fruit? A lot!
Dark, rich, sweet, heady. There is nothing that signifies summer to me so much as cherries. For a long time I wouldn’t buy cherries, the cost is so astronomical! $4/lb sometimes, or more! And when I grew up with free cherries, it was too hard to pay that much.
Well, perhaps not totally free. We had to work for them. Grandma and Grandpa had a cherry orchard and all the family came to help during cherry season. We picked for the fruit stands, and we dragged ladders around for those who came to the orchard to pick their own fruit.
They paid us kids 10 cents per pound to entice us to work, and if you could pick 500 lbs in a day (do-able) you could make $50 a day! Not a bad wage back in the when you were a teenager in the late 70’s-early 80’s. I didn’t often make that much, but my brother could and did. We’d be on opposite sides of the tree and any rotten cherries usually were flung at each other. We never had to stop for hunger, we just ate right off the tree as we worked.
And when it got too hot to continue, we’d load up the tractor and take the crates of fruit up to the shed before heading to the lake to wash off all the cherry juice and spend the afternoon diving into the cool Shuswap Lake down at Canoe Beach.
In the cool late afternoon/early evening, I would help my Grandma pit cherries and pack them into containers for freezing. We’d fill wide mouth quart jars with washed fruit and pour boiling syrup over them before plunging the sealed jars into a boiling water bath to preserve them for the winter ahead. And then we’d sit outside in the evening and drink in the cool evening air.
I’ll never get over the sticker shock of the price of cherries in the city, but I don’t deny myself their pleasure anymore either. Each and every time I pop a ripe red cherry in my mouth I am reminded of what a wonderful gift those years in Canoe were. Hot summers, fresh fruit and vegetables, too much zucchini, crickets, horseback riding, go-karting, water fights, croquet, lawn darts (the sharp kind), trampolines, family times, sibling arguments, tractor rides, pheasant feathers, hanging laundry outside, summer thunderstorms, pots of fresh corn, hammocks, tents on the back lawn for when it was too hot to sleep inside, mowing massive lawns, running through hay fields, summer music, summer reading, first love, stolen kisses, holding hands, drive in theatres, first heartbreak, new-found strength, early morning jogging, country mailboxes, chickens, fresh eggs, cattle, fresh milk, striped barn cat, spotted farm dog.
So many memories, all wrapped up in that little red package.