I’ve recently found several old photographs of my first visits to Glen Echo Lake, picking berries and swimming. This is the likely the first time I picked berries for my breakfast. Berries are a theme, like strung pearls, that link my Nan, my Mom, and me.
In Cambridge it’s snowing softly, and Nan
sets the table for Sunday supper. She reaches
into the fridge for butter, cold slices of ham,
a jar of pigs feet. We crowd chairs around the
table. I sit on Mum’s lap with a slice of bread,
butter, ham. Not food I’m used to. Mum and I
are quiet. I wonder who was here for dinner,
why we only come for leftovers, late in the day.
My older cousin Catherine shows me how to play games
I don’t know yet, and Nan hands me a rectangular tin
with two handles. She says for you, a lunchbox.
I wonder at it. It’s small, and I have a Roy Roger’s
lunch box at home. She doesn’t know what I have there,
where I live with my Armenian grandmother, where
we speak another language, where dad whispers to me
in Irish, sings lullabies and tells me stories at bedtime.
I’m not used to having extra anything, and I’m doubtful
of this gift. She offers you can use it to pick blueberries.
When summer comes we pile into our car, pick up Nan, cousins
Catherine and Kristeen, and Aunt Maureen to pick berries in Stoughton.
We pick wild berries along the dead end road, at the edge
of Paul’s sheep field, to Glen Echo Lake. We have purple lips
and tongues. Blueberry heaven, and we’re happy here.
Wild blueberries plonk on the bottom of my special tin.
My Auntie Maureen is holding me on her lap.