Fleshy. Soft. Tart. Sweet. Succulent. Tiny, hard seeds. Crushed, blood red on fingertips. Cool. Warm. Delicate. Piled together in a sweaty embrace. Raspberries in summertime.
I bought a small carton of raspberries at the supermarket this week while the shopping basket I carried on my right arm was nearly toppling with produce and other food to fill my bare shelves after a two week holiday. The sunshine from when I first arrived back in August had returned, the glow of the summer on its way warming my body deep within. Their supple red curves called to me and I reached out, willing to pay the outrageous price that put them on the shelf, probably the amount my mother paid for a day of picking them in the fields a drive away from our home when I was growing up.
I recall each of us, myself and my three younger brothers, accompanying my mom and a neighbourhood friend and her children piling into our car on a crisp, cool summer morning to try to get as many baskets full before the noon sun rose high above our heads and the sweat dripped down our backs. We would sneak raspberries, but never too many, for the smaller they were, the longer it took to fill up our baskets and we were not leaving until they were full. How else would you make jam?
We did this with strawberries too. In fact, the family picking trips were more often for strawberries than raspberries, just because of the fact that they were bigger and the baskets were easier to fill, at least that’s what I thought. Thinking back, I am sure it had something to do with the thorny bushes, and the scratches which donned our bare legs after a morning of picking.
Then there were wild raspberries. Finding the hidden treasure, buried deep within the heart of the great green bushes. Tackling the pickers and getting one, large, juicy raspberry was worth all the scratches and scrapes. We would giggle and help each other reach new heights to get as many as we could. Sometimes we’d get over ambitious and imagine picking enough for some jam, instead we would eat them all and return with raspberry stained hands, shirts and shorts.
The next morning we made our way back to the raspberry treasure during our fantasy hike, in hopes that overnight, the tough green raspberries from the morning before had ripened into the life giving red ones that we had devoured then. Sometimes they had and sometimes we had to wait until the next day and the next day. But we always returned.
When I arrive home from the supermarket, arms exhausted from carrying two overflowing bags, I set them onto the counter and began to unload them. When I came to the raspberries, I immediately popped one in my mouth. Closed my eyes. And tasted it. Suddenly, the sun was warming my face and my little brother was pulling on my shorts to have me pick him up so he could reach one off the top of the bush above me.
Summertime had arrived.