Standing in the blazing Nova Scotia sun making our way toward a place a bit less natural and much cooler, we heard a woman’s voice from a few rows over. Holding Quinn’s hand with my right and balancing 15 pounds of strawberries we just picked with my left hand, I wasn’t sure that chatting would work out so well in the keeping-all-of-the-berries-in-the-box department. But, she found herself compelled to make sure I knew what was on her mind.
“It’s so wonderful, what you are doing with your children out here,” she said, her white hair tucked neatly under a scarf that obviously had been tied that way many times after years of knowing the farms out there (I never get head scarves to look so good). “Kids need this. They need to go get their food out of the field. It matters.”
I totally admit that I love when my parenting choices are validated. It makes me feel like all of the bad choices get voided somehow when someone thinks I did OK. But, honestly, I couldn’t have agreed with her more about the whole theory of helping kids know where their food comes from. The grocery store SOOOO doesn’t rate after you’ve had the chance to squish fresh strawberries through your fingers and lick them off of your muddy hands.
While I found myself nodding with a complete sense of “You betcha”, our first time out in the fields of an actual working Nova Scotia farm meant even more to us than scoring some of the best tasting strawberries we’d ever had and covering ourselves from head to toe with mud and hay.
It was about finding our place in this new life.
The last couple of weeks have been mildly brutal around our house. People can talk to you and give you the whole “It’s rough, moving away from everything and everyone you know” chat. But, until you live it perspective is, well, limited.
I can openly talk now about the endless flow of tears that marked our first 10 days here – and that was just coming from me. The kids found themselves basically unable to convey in any way other than screaming their faces off, moving through extreme hysteria and running through the world at full throttle how this shift in the gears of our family changed them. I was no better.
Quinn, sweet baby, seemed to most able to express herself properly – standing at the front door for days on end shouting “Daddy, daddy, daddy, where daddy.” This went on for hours at a time. Mhari and I – busy grumping and growling, considered it normal background noise after a while.
The perpetual stink eye and everyone screaming their faces off seemed like a forever thing. None of us knew how to deal.
My solution for that horribly lost feeling is to go out and find things. So, out we went – to museums, petting farms, malls, grocery stores, parks, schools, dad’s office, the library – basically anywhere that I figured would become something we may return to over and over again to find comfort in the familiarity.
We got lost. A lot.
Mhari got mad at me. I told her that getting lost never bothered me because once we found a place, we had a direction to go. But, really, I hate not knowing the route – whether it be the path through the grocery store to make sure we don’t forget anything or the way to get home. I felt the need to drive and walk to certain spots over and over and over again just to carve a familiar path.
As the footprints started to seem familiar, all of us could feel our spirits ease a bit. That ungrounded feeling, like we didn’t really connect with the place yet, still kinda chased us around though. Shaking that crazy feeling of “I have no idea how this works” really, really, really (really) meant three cranky gals.
Then, a pal back in B.C. posted on Facebook about heading out to pick strawberries with her kids. We’d already found the local spots to get great meat and seafood as well as coffee. Veggies could be scored at the weekend farmer’s market. But, something went off inside of me thinking about getting out into the fields with the girls to pick fresh berries that made sense.
I had my first U-Pick experience somewhere around 1997 in the apple orchards of Eastern Washington. I fell in love there, and every place I’ve ever lived since I’ve sought out those places where picking my own food was encouraged. I faced the fact a while ago that I am a lousy gardener and will kill anything I try to grow basically on the spot. So, I have a particular fondness and respect for those who grow and let me tramp through their fields.
I wanted the kids to feel that too.
We made the hour drive to Truro and let’s just say the grumpies didn’t exactly lift upon descending into the strawberry patch. Then, as the kids started pulling berries off of the plants, stuffing a few in their mouths and making their way up and down the row in the blazing sun, we all felt something under our feet (and on our boots, and all over our hands, and then in our hair).
Mud – from downpour the night before. There was lots and lots (and lots) of mud.
It was awesome. The patch smelled like strawberries and hay and wet dirt. We picked and picked and picked. The kids didn’t get many in the bucket. But, after about 15 minutes I stopped caring what their stash looked like and spent a bit more time just admiring how they got into being out there.
By the time it was all over, we found ourselves ready for some cooler air. But, something had physically shifted for all of us. We slid our muddy shoes off and wiggled toes like roots had sprouted from them and needed to breathe.
The truck smelled like strawberries and sweat as we headed home to whip up our first strawberry pie and all seemed right with the world.
No, nothing is perfect. The growls still need to be managed. This place still makes us shudder a bit from sheer “outsider” emotions. But, that moment there on the farm, sticking our hands in the dirt, made all of the difference.
Our friend in the patch seemed to have made a bit of an announcement from the universe that day to make sure we understood what just happened.
“It’s important,” she repeated as we poured our muddy selves into the truck and drove away. “Your children will never forget this.”