June 5, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By DiAne Gates –

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, thank you for the miracle of Your creation, the love of family and friends and memories; but most of all, thank you for loving us and sending Jesus to die for our sins.

Springtime in Florida was a multi-colored landscape of green, buttercup yellow, and pastel pink. Delicate white blooms dotted prickly vines along roadsides and covered fence lines. Transparent flowers with pollen-filled centers, swayed in the breeze. Honey bees buzzed.

Lumpy, green balls replaced blossoms to confirm this was the perfect patch. We watched those hard green spheres balloon into hundreds of scarlet berries. And sunny days and spring rains urged their transformation into plump, luminous, blackberries.

The berries ripened. Our family piled into our ‘57 Ford, and headed toward our berry patch alongside a country road near the marshes of the St. Johns River, outside Jacksonville, Florida. The Gooding family joined this annual first-blackberry-picking-day.

Parents set boundaries and issued warnings about snakes, stickers and sandspurs. They might as well-a’-been-talkin’ to the wind. We grabbed our buckets and raced down the slope to be first to find the biggest blackberry in the patch.

We scrambled here and there, hoping to find the berry of the day—waiting to be picked by someone—hopefully me. Truth is, we ate as many as we picked, evidenced by toothy grins smeared with tell-tale black juice tinting our lips, our tongues, and grimy fingers.

During one of those scrambles Elaine lost her balance, bounced bottom first down the sandy slope, and landed right in the middle of a sticker-filled-cactus-patch.

Her wails brought an end to this event. Two dads carried the wounded berry-picker to the car where she laid, face-down across our laps, and cried all the way home.

Moms washed the black treasures, then mixed ingredients for the anticipated cobbler. My dad churned homemade vanilla ice cream that would crown the scrumptious berries already bubbling in the oven.

Elaine’s dad had the unpleasant task of removing those nasty stickers from her backside.

I’ll admit, we were not sympathetic onlookers. She had spoiled our fun. We snickered and giggled, sneaking peeks around the corner with every shriek of pain—secretly grateful it wasn’t one of us.

Glasses of iced tea, lemonade with mint sprigs, warm bowls filled with black-berry cobbler, piled with homemade ice cream, however, proved our berry picking day a success.

We lingered in the backyard, swaying in wooden swings hanging by gnarled ropes from aged oak trees as the last moments of the day slipped away. But fireflies flashed in the hedges and a new chase was on, to see who could capture the biggest, brightest insect.

Everyone but Elaine, who stood with her bowl of cobbler.

I no longer search country lanes, but drive to Walmart and buy expensive, tasteless berries, picked before they’re ripe, packed in plastic—not a kid’s bucket—only to find a layer of moldy ones on the bottom.

These days I sit on the patio to watch the day fade into evening while the latest accounts of troubling information blare on the evening news and my grandchildren text me in three word sentences.

I recall these joyful memories while one or two fireflies dart in the bushes around our pond and marvel that times change but God is forever sovereign and on the Throne.

My grandchildren will never experience the excitement of beating friends to the biggest blackberry in the patch, or catching the brightest firefly in their jar, or joining lighthearted conversation with grown-ups.

Memories of a tummy full of cobbler and fresh homemade ice cream, wrapped in the blanket of love family and friends provide, holding my jar full of God’s miraculous lights, are tucked into the secret places of my heart.

Precious memories this world of technology will never duplicate.

About Diane Gates

DiAne writes and illustrates for children, leads a writer’s group for North Texas Christian Writers, and facilitates GriefShare recovery groups. Her books include Arnold The An Who Wouldn’t Be An Ant, won first place in the Children’s Division at North Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2010, and Roped,a middle grade novel, won first place in the Children’s Division at North Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2011. A devotional article also won second place award at the 2011 NTCW Conference. A devotional series entitled The Master’s Plan is a WIP, and a devotional will appear in The Secret Place in 2012. Moving the Ancient Boundaries
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