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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Bookworms and Blueberries
By Robyn Burke


“Mom, what does idy-lic mean?” I looked up from my bread dough to meet the chocolate brown eyes of my youngest daughter. Slightly confused owing to her way of sounding out the word I requested she spell it.

“Idyllic.” I said. “It means peaceful or calm, pleasant; I spent an idyllic afternoon in the hammock.” I added to give her a better understanding. Satisfied, Tessa returned to her book and I, to the pounding of the dough.

Tessa was a reader. While her older brother and sister were usually found outside, chasing butterflies or playing catch, I could count on finding Tessa curled up in a chair, book in one hand, the other one twisting a lock of hair.

I certainly didn’t mind! I was an avid reader myself. Todd and Tara were too, but they much preferred the outdoor activities of the farm and helping their dad during the day. Save the book reading for evenings when daylight was gone, or the weather too unpleasant to play in.

It was a good life, this one we had carved. Both my husband Trevor and I grew up country kids and when the McGregor Farm came up for sale, we couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family. We doled out chores along with discipline and manners. It was the way our parents raised us and their parents had raised them.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched my eight year olds mouth work its way around another unfamiliar word. My heart surged with pride for her independent streak that would not allow her to ask for help until she had exhausted her own efforts. Sure enough I saw her face alight with comprehension and she sank deeper into her little world.

I moved the bread dough to the warming oven and wiped my hands. “Tessa, tear yourself away from your book a minute and come take a walk with me.”

She groaned but obeyed. While I was glad she loved to read, I worried that my little bookworm wasn’t getting enough physical activities. As we made our way down the worn path to the garden, I looked closely at Tessa. In the sunlight, I noticed dark circles under her eyes and was struck by how very thin she was. Had she lost weight this summer? I circled my arm around her shoulders and drew her closer to me. Instantly she stood straighter.

It had been a busy productive summer as usual and perhaps I had been too busy to really pay attention to my quiet compliant child. With a rowdy thirteen year old son and a precocious eleven year old daughter, Tessa was the easy one. Maybe too easy, and too often overlooked with Todd and Tara and the farm demanding my attention. I resolved to spend some extra time with Tessa before school resumed next month.

We had reached the blueberries and we knelt together as I handed Tessa a bucket that rested against the fencepost. We picked berries in companionable silence.

“Mom?” Tessa’s voice broke the stillness. “Is this an i-dyl-lic moment?”

Sitting back on my heels, I studied her small face for a moment, brushing a strand of hair so I could see her eyes better. A memory floated to the surface. I was a child picking vegetables from the garden with my mother. It was a memory awash in sunshine, fragrant and rich. Tessa grinned at me and a wave of love, so fierce, so pure, rushed over me. I wished I could freeze frame this moment.

"Idyllic? Yes, Tessa, I believe it is.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst09/10/09
I can certainly relate, both to the daughter & the mom, bookworm that I was & am. So glad the mom recognized the quiet, compliant one's need for attention.

Beautifully written, lots of expressive from-the-heart phrases. Only thing I felt was a teensy bit out of place was the word "Blueberries" in the title as they played a much more minor role than I was expecting.
Ada Nett09/11/09
Sweet story , told well! What a wise mother...
Lisa Johnson09/12/09
What a sweet, tender story. The only thing that bothered me about the story...I'm a nurse, and I couldn't help but think that the child's weight loss and dark circles under her eyes was going to play a (sad) part in the story.
Rachel Phelps09/15/09
I was the bookworm child who didn't often get the first helping of attention in my house, so this story resonated with me. Great descriptions, and I loved the ending!