Yesterday was a Wednesday. A beautiful day. The sun was shining with a smattering of puffy white clouds in the sky, birds were chirping, a gentle breeze and a mild 74 degrees. As I said, simply beautiful.
It’s the middle of June. That’s prime strawberry time here in Iowa. Mmmm . . . strawberries. Can you smell them? Their perky green tops upon plump, juicy, red berries just beckoning your lips. . . . mmmmmm.
My kids love berries of all kinds (any fruit for that matter). So I told Lewie (3 1/2) that we were going to get in the car and drive to get a great big box of strawberries. He excitedly jumped up and down and climbed up into the car all by himself. Considering he usually asks me to help him into the car, tells you how exciting this little journey was for him. I plopped Jack into his carseat, buckled the munchkins in, buckled myself in and we set off for Decorah, IA. A 30 minute drive from our home, but worth it for delicious berries that we do not have in our own garden.
We were headed for a drop off spot in Decorah where a berry farm (30 minutes N of Decorah, into Minnesota) sells their big red yummy strawberries during peak season. We arrived at 12:30 on the nose, as that’s the time they arrive. There was a line of folks waiting patiently, or so I thought. The white delivery Jeep was packed with crates full of berries, which easily appeared to be enough to fill the desires of the line of people. I was immediately discouraged to see the line, as I knew I would not get out of my car and leave my toddlers in the car while I “waited” in line to buy strawberries.
I opted to hop out of my car, and politely asked the delivery lady if she anticipated her load of berries would satisfy all those currently in line, judging on the amount of berries and the # of people. Her reply, obviously annoyed that someone dare ask her a question, was a short one but she thought so. I then quickly explained I had 2 toddlers in the car and could I purchase 2 crates – – yes, 2 crates . . . .not a piddly quart, but 2 whole crates. I had my money in hand might I add. Apparently I had just crossed a line. She snapped, again, at me stating “there’s a line”. Then immediately a woman in line who clearly was far past child-bearing years, not having small children in her car and had all the time in the world to wait in line for berries yelled at me “the line starts back there”. Everyone in the line was glaring at me at this point, to which I calmly said I have toddlers in the vehicle and again turned to ask the delivery woman one last time if she would allow me to purchase 2 crates of berries. She snapped one last time “there’s a line”, then gave me a nasty look of what-do-you-want-me-to-do snide look and went back to feeding the line of vultures.
Children safety or berries. Hmmm. I chose my babies. I hate to think what the vultures in that line would choose, given the choice. Besides, I didn’t care how delicious those damn berries were at that point, or if they were giving them away, that was the last time I purchased a strawberry from this berry farm. I got back into my car, picked up my phone and dialed the berry farm owner direct, thank goodness for smartphones. The owner answered my call and I calmly told him of my experience with his delivery driver. He replied “oh dear” several times, which I took to mean was not the type of customer experience he was going for. Then, I said to him that he’d unfortunately just lost a good customer, all because one nasty woman could not show kindness to a young mother with babies in her car, not for gold, not for free money, but for strawberries. Lewie and I were crushed. I nearly cried (a bit much I admit, but in the heat of the moment my mommy emotions were tripped) as I heard Lewie ask why we didn’t get strawberries and I explained that those people were very mean and nasty.
I started our 30 minute journey home . . . without strawberries. As I ascended up the big hill out of Decorah I recalled seeing a strawberry sign at a small roadside farm drive about 2 miles out of town. I slowed down as I neared the gravel driveway and sure enough they had a berry sign. We drove into the driveway and pulled up next to their wooden stand. The sign on the dorm-size fridge read “serve yourself”. Inside I found 6 quarts of fresh strawberries. I happily gathered up the clear containers of red berries, mentally calculated the amount I owed, wrote out a check and deposited it into their little safe. As I took them to the car, Lewie asked if these were strawberries. “Yes they are peanut, these are yummy, juicy strawberries” and I picked the top of a couple and handed them to the boys to sample. Jack was holding out his hands, he knew just what they were. I suddenly realized in my excitement (and nerves still twitching from my encounter with the vulchers), that I had grossly miscalculated my amount owed and paid them double for my berries. I looked around the gardens of growing vegetables nearby and saw a man on a lawnmower, he came over to see if I needed help. Yes, I said and told him of my great math skills in his favor. He rounded up 8 more quarts of berries for me, and even gave me a bag of garlic scapes (like green onions with a garlic flavor) because he wants folks to try them, as they’ll be growing more and selling them next year. We settled up with the proper amount of money, I thanked him several times for his generosity and kindness. I shook his hand, told him my name, where we live and that he’d just earned a new customer today. His name is Jerry Hunter he said, this man of about 60. Hunter’s Produce is the name of their farm stand.
This story is a rather long one, I know. But I wanted to paint a vivid picture of the entire journey. We set off excited with anticipation, we hit a dark wall of vultures and meanness. I turned us around and went back the way we came, and then we turned down Mr. Hunter’s drive, a driveway of sunshine and kindness and generosity. I made a new connection with a man who loves gardening with his wife and selling their produce at the end of their driveway. Karma will find those who were nasty to me and my little boys. I am just grateful that I did not let the nasty experience radiate for the rest of our journey or our day. We have 14 quarts of plump, red, juicy strawberries to eat and freeze for later. Today I’ll make us shortcake for a fun afternoon snack of strawberry shortcake.
Final thought: I’m ashamed to say, I know I’ve been a vulture at times in my life. I wish I could turn back time and change my behavior at those moments, but I cannot. What I can do, is remember to be kind to everyone and teach my boys to do the same. We never know why that person is butting in line . . . could be they have babies in the car and they have just 30 seconds to spare.
Does this story have you craving a juicy strawberry? I can help you in the form of fabric, how about that? Here are 2 cute strawberry patterns that aren’t as tasty, but they certainly capture the feeling of strawberry time, wherever you live. You can find them at many terrific quilt shops or on our website: www.patchabilities.com