Originally written on July 4, 2006
My dear friend Rachel is a little unique. God bless her. She really should have been born in another time. She's a contradiction in terms. There is this one side of her that is a prim, proper, conservative girl, who likes to quilt, do cross-stitch, bake pies and wear button down shirts and khakis. This is how the girl looks like on the outside: She is tall 5’8”, and very thin, dare I say willowy? With long spindly arms and legs like Audrey Hepburn. She also has long cascading curly brown hair, that at 36, she normally wears down to her waist, but she recently cut so that it now reaches her mid-back (she said she cut it so that I would not yell at her to get a haircut when I saw her). If you look at her and me together you would think that there is no way on earth that we would be friends, but we are, because deep down, I have a Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker side of me too, except I don’t look like it on the outside.
Today is the 4th of July, and it is Rachel’s only day off this week from her job at a federal governmental agency. So Rachel wants to spend the entire day with me. She has already decided what the first activity will be, berry picking. Sounds nice, huh? Berry picking. Has a nice ring to it. Sounds simple. Sounds kind of Little House on the Prairie-ish. You are right, except when it is 92° with about 85% humidity. But, in the spirit of friendship, I don my tank top, my white shorts, slather on the sunscreen, we pick up Rachel's mom and drive out to Conte’s Farm, which is located somewhere in the interior of the Garden State down long country roads. When we finally make it out to Conte’s Farm, we grab buckets with strings attached to their handles and climb aboard a stake-bed cart pulled by a little old wrinkled farmer on his tractor and take a very bumpy ride out to the berry field (nobody warned me that I need a sports bra for this activity). So here we are the three of us standing at the end of the rows of blueberry bushes. The weather beaten farmer gives us a tip, the best berries are down low to the ground, because most people do not want to stoop that low and therefore, all of the good berries at eye-level and above have already been picked over. Great, I come all the way to New Jersey to become a stooped over migrant farm worker, somehow I think if I wanted to do this for a profession, I would have found plenty of work in California.
“Ok,” Rachel says, “now only pick the biggest berries. I don’t want to see anything in your bucket less than the size of a nickel.” Rachel's mom and I look at each other and roll our eyes.
“I’m going to inspect your buckets afterwards,” Rachel continues. “And remember think like a berry!” “Yes, I’m thinking like a berry,” I respond.