Musical Blackberries by Mildred Grant

“Mom, should I answer this phone?” Eleanor called.

“You might as well, because I can’t. I’m just putting the strawberry jam in the jars. Tell whoever it is I’ll call them back in about 10 minutes.”

Eleanor picked up the receiver to hear Aunt Mina’s voice saying, “Blackberries are ripe at Grandpa’s place. Harry and I are going up tomorrow and we wondered if you and Furb wanted to come along. Oh, it’s Eleanor.”

“Yes, and I’m to tell you that Mom will call you back in about 10 minutes. She’s just pouring hot strawberry jam into the jars. I’ll help her seal them and then she’ll call you.” Eleanor explained.

“Tell her what I said, about the blackberries, so she can be thinking about it. Maybe a picnic would be the way to do it, and you children could come along, too,” Aunt Mina enthused.

Eleanor replied, “The picnic sounds like a very good idea. I’m not so sure we children think picking blackberries is the way we want to spend one whole day of what is left of our summer vacation, but I’ll give Mom your message though, and she’ll call you back.”

Two beautiful, red rows of well filled jam glasses stood on the table, waiting for a coat of melted wax to seal in their goodness until the perfect, cold winter day when a taste of summer would be so-o-o-good. Of course, blackberry jam and jelly would be equally good, but the thought of all the prickly bushes and the protection one had to wear against getting shredded, well, that’s a different story.

Eleanor delivered Aunt Mina’s message and helped put the first seal on the hot jars. Mom hadn’t said anything, yet, and Eleanor was anxiously trying to think up a plausible excuse to keep “the children” home.

“I know how little help you children are at picking berries, but, if we all pick, it wouldn’t take long to get plenty for jam, jelly, and shortcake. The picnic lunch sounds like a good solution to getting an early start, too. I’ll call Mina now and get the lunch planned,” Mom said. “Dad won’t mind going as long as Harry is going, too.”

Plans were soon made that included the children and, though the children enjoyed going to Great-Grandpa’s, they all let it be known that blackberry picking wasn’t their first choice. The old cellar hole, the immense granite blocks that formed the foundation for the barn, the cemetery where many of our ancestors are buried, and the biggest attraction,, the Dunbar Brook with it’s small caves , pools, and waterfalls.

The five of us plotted and planned all the way toMonroe—how to get out of having to get togged up in long sleeves and long pants in this warm weather just to pick berries when there were so many fun things to do.

Too soon lunch was over and the grown-ups pulled on the accepted blackberry picking gear. Suddenly, Chet said, “Pick out a tree and climb up as far as you dare. I’ll bet no one will come after us. We’ll be out of reach!”

Chet picked a young maple; Eleanor chose a sturdy oak, climbing quite high up where the branches were very limber. Mildred scampered up a beautiful white birch and Allen chose a yellow birch tree. With a brisk breeze, bright sunshine, and puffy white clouds—we had found an ideal way to spend the afternoon and, just maybe, we’d get out of picking blackberries. Mary was too little to take part in our ruse, but she joined in as we children began to sing, all the old songs that Mom had been teaching to us—in harmony.

“Children!” Mom commanded. “You get down here and help us. You’ll be more than ready to eat jam and jelly, as well as shortcake, so come down here, now!”

Eleanor, alto and Mildred, soprano started singing another old favorite, while Chet added the bass notes, and Allen put in the tenor part. Mary could be heard adding some lovely soprano notes.

“Children! Come down here, now!” Mom called.

Aunt Mina chimed in, “Oh, Helen, let them sing! I’ll just pick faster,”

“Besides,” observed Uncle Harry, “Ladies don’t climb trees. Not in this day and age.”

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