Thursday, March 17, 2016
The Taste of Raspberries
My childhood was typical of my generation. We future helicopter parents were told to "go outside and play!" by our parents, left to our own devices, returning home for meals.
But in the wild jungle of my city neighborhood, I found plenty to sustain me.
There was the house with the raspberries and blackberries that overflowed the yard to the sidewalk, offering up their tiny jewels of sun-warmed sweetness. I took these berries for granted, stopping and grazing whether I was on foot, bike or rollerskates.
These berries were right down the street from the house with the giant mounds of bushes adorned with tiny white flowers that looked like Barbie-sized wedding bouquets. These flowers had their own pungent sort of smell, similar to the Bradford Pears that I now find all over my neighborhood. Their smell brings me back, as well.
When the berries were gone, there was the rhubarb. Sneaking through the hole in the fence to the yard with the bleeding heart flowers we would pop in our fingers after we had our fill of the sour pink and green stalks. That taste is easy to define. Tart, pungent, seizing up your saliva glands, crisp and fresh. The days were hot but those rhubarb stalks were cool.
We'd hide in the lilac bushes, plucking the tiny purple quatrefoils to get the nectar before the bees did. We'd climb the apple tree and test the flavor of the sour fruit, not believing that these apples weren't for eating.
We'd pick bouquets of dandelions, holding them under our chins to see if the yellow reflection would reveal our love of butter, split the stems with our thumbnails and tie them together in wilty chains or flick the yellow flowers from their stems with a chant of "mama had a baby and it's head popped off." I have no idea why.
I lived in an urban landscape that sustained me. And still now, decades later, when I buy that first clamshell pack of raspberries from the store and pop one in my mouth, I'm transported.