The sun beat down upon my daughter’s freckled face. She stumbled along in exhaustion, dehydration beginning to show its effects. She flopped upon the ground and began to twitch about a bit.
“Don’t mash the blueberries, dear,” I cautioned.
“Mama, I think I have malaria. I should go inside and rest.” She replied.
I don’t know why it is that my children contract deadly diseases every time there is yard work to be done. Blueberry picking usually brings on a bout of malaria, while weeding is almost certain to cause yellow fever.
“You need to get up and help me pick these berries.” I said, stepping over her.
“But mother, why do we have to pick so many berries?” She answered, in full drama queen mode. I knew if I was to get the child up off of her knees and back to the berry picking, I was going to have to pull out all the stops and go directly for the big guns.
“We’re picking berries for Jesus.” I began, “You see, the more berries we pick, the more jelly we jar. The more we jar, the more we can sell at the fair. The more money we earn, the more we have to give to the mission trip . . . and you know that’s for Jesus. So let’s get snapping.”
She thought about that for a minute while reaching for the berries on the lowest branch, and working her way up. “So, we’re picking berries to make Jelly for Jesus?” she asked, her eyes round and full of trust, as she dumped an apron full into the basket.
Now, I am a firm believer in consequences; I believe that everything that we say has long-reaching effects, and that some of these effects follow us through eternity. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, there are bound to be ripples. What those ripples will require of you, only time will tell. I examined the enormous clusters of berries up inside the bush, where I could never reach.
Blinking twice, I looked her dead in the eye, and said, “Yep. Jelly for Jesus. Now let’s get snapping.”
The jelly was made that year, and the mission trip that it helped to fund was a success. The children took pleasure in knowing that they helped in some way by making Jelly for Jesus, and they thoroughly enjoyed spreading the leftovers on toast and muffins.
The problem was, they wanted to do it again the following year, and every year since. The jelly we made for Jesus, you see, has become “real” jelly, while all other jellies are weak substitutes and not to be trusted.
I’ve bought store brand jelly and brand name jelly; I even stopped at roadside fruit stands and purchased gourmet jellies with fancy cloth tops tied up with pretty raffia bows, and adorned with hand-designed labels. These wont do at all. They sit in the back of my refrigerator, untouched. The children would sooner starve to death than eat anything other than real jelly.
This would not be such a pain in my summer hide if it were as simple as picking a few baskets of berries, but it is not. There is the berry picking, the berry washing, and the berry culling. Then there is berry drying, freezing, and collecting. Then we have berry boiling, mashing, straining, and sweetening. And this is before anyone has even thought about berry jellying.
It is a two day production, anyway you cut it, and that’s just blueberries. The children have discovered the joys of blackberry jam, fig preserves, and scupernon jelly, so I can pretty much write off the entire month of July and parts of August and June.
A few moments ago, the children ran in the house excitedly to tell me that the berries were in, and it was time to go picking, so c’mon Mama, let’s get snapping. But I do not want to pick berries. I’m tired and I want to rest. The sun is high and it’s hot out there. Besides, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.
I’m thinking its malaria.
copyright 2004 Dori Knight
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