Story and photo by Miv Schaaf
All summer long there is white dust on the weeds at the side of the gravel road; the goldenrod look like ghosts of themselves, although when you blow on them, the yellow flowers are as bright as ever. When we are blueberry picking, the bushes are clean only three or four feet in from the side of the road as though they had never seen cars go by.
Sometimes we go out with pails, strictly on a blueberry picking mission, but most times it's "Oh, look at those blueberries, Marcus!" -- and we all pile out of the old Reo and run under the jack pines. "Over here, Lucette,"' says Mother. "I've found a marvelous patch."
But Setty, as usual, has wandered out of hearing and found her own place. "There is the loveliest place over there," she will say, coming back when Marc or I have been sent off to find her. "I've never seen ferns grow so high, and I think I saw a downy woodpecker. It had a little red mark on its breast, Marcus. Would that have been a woodpecker?" "How high up the tree was it?" asks Father. "It was probably a female cardinal." Setty always comes back with the fewest berries.
Minno, our oldest aunt, comes back with her big Panama hat full, her curly white hair sparked with pine needles. "I've got enough for a good pie, don't you know, and I must have eaten two hatsfull."
The last one in the car is Frowzy, our silly little dog; her white beard is all blue, she finds the best bushes of all. For the biggest blueberries I follow Frowsy, but I can't pick them as fast as she can eat them from the bush.
"I have my scarf full," Mother says, "Now let's keep these for dinner and not eat them on the way home."
"Everybody in?" Father asks. Off we go, a new white dust cloud behind us powdering the bushes. "Now, twins, let's be sure to remember this place," says Setty. But we never do.
"The roller coaster road, Father, let's go on the roller coaster road." "Oh, Marcus," says Mother. But we do, the stubby pipe in Father's teeth the only nonbouncing object. Shrieks, laughs, yells -- blueberries on laps and car floor.
(In winter, back home in Lansing, when we hit an icy bump, two or three shriveled summer blueberries fall down from the eavestrough, we call it, the inside railing under the Reo's roof. It's meant to hold fishing rods, but, it you put your hand up there above your head you find unseen hidden treasures: blueberries, marshmallows, a caramel, a dime -- be careful of the fish hooks.)
Early bats are already skimming the blue spruce hedge when we get back to the cottage. Father planted the little seedlings when we were born and every summer, turning down the dirt road to the lake cottage -- "Look at the hedge!" everyone says -- it has grown faster than we have.
"I don't think there's enough corn for dinner," Mother says.
"Mother, let's have Setty's bacon sandwiches!" Setty makes the best bacon sandwiches in the world. There aren't any blueberries though; we ate them all on the way home.
Miv Schaaf, a resident of Big Lagoon, wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years.
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