Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

Patricia Cummings

Strawberries are celebrated in the Beatles' song, "Strawberry Fields Forever." The word "strawberries" will conjure up an image for most of us. When I hear the word, I often think of the fields in Hopkinton, NH where my family members made an annual trek to buy strawberries which grew there abundantly. Picking occurred when they berries were just ripe, succulent and inviting in their color, little treasures. The best of them always seemed to be hiding just out of view, under a large leaf that when moved would give up that secret.

For a time, I believed I was allergic to strawberries. Recently, I learned that I seem to be able to eat them with no adverse side effects. For years now, we have purchased strawberry jelly made by Trappist Monks in Massachusetts, my personal salute to my great uncle's son who was at first a Trappist priest and then a Trappist monk. I knew him as "Bobby" and later as "Father Placid."  The fields where we used to pick those luscious berries were sold and now sit full of weeds and not under cultivation, a "gentleman's farm" as life goes. Likewise, I know not if my cousin is living or dead. Life changes and moves along but somehow, we always expect the life will stay the same and to that end, we cling to traditions, but knowing full well, that life is eerily wrought with changes and those are often just a breath away when the last person observing a routine is no longer with us.

Today we bought Strawberries at the store. They looked so inviting, they were just too nice to pass up. They were probably grown in California. It is too early for local varieties that will be ready about the middle of June, petering out until around the 4th of July.

One time when I was a sophomore at UNH, my parents picked up a friend of mine and me and brought us out to eat at Yoken's, a family restaurant that specialized in seafood. With their "Thar She Blows" motto accompanied by a whale, the place was known for its excellent fare at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the restaurant is no more. But I digress. For dessert, my father ordered Strawberry Shortcake. My boyfriend ordered the same. After they had devoured that, Dad said, "I think I'd like another, how about you, John?" The two men enjoyed a second dessert, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of my mother. Have you ever done something as outrageous as ordering two desserts? If not, you should try it, at least once in your lifetime. Life is too short to let formalities stand in the way.

One of the favorite quilts I designed to represent the key themes of the 19th century: temperance, abolition, and slavery. It is named after a song of the same name: "Liberty is Our Motto." A small piece of fabric in the upper right corner features President George Washington and President Barack Obama, a design worked by Barbara Brackman. No doubt there is a Strawberry button sewn on this quilt that was made to celebrate the 4th of July.

Made by Patricia Cummings and photographed by James Cummings

I am thinking about the migrant workers who, no doubt, harvested the strawberries that now sit in my refrigerator. I also think of the truckers who were able to deliver them to the store, without a blemish, picture-perfect strawberries at a decent price. I have a few words for you. It is so important to treasure the "little things." For me, today, my treasure is strawberries. What is your small treasure? You do no have to answer me but I encourage you to enjoy the small things in life because they add up to the "Big Picture," the totality of your life, then and now. Soon it will be the 4th of July. Often, I make a cake that has strawberries, blueberries, and lots of whipped cream for a patriotic statement.

Enjoy the day! Today is the only today of its kind you will ever have!

Patricia Cummings

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