#45 – Blackberry Summer – Amelia Western

“I want to die.”

Not a typical thought for most people on a plane en route to visit their grandparents.  All I could think about was whether I could successfully make it to the back of the plane before the nausea won and I vomited all over some unfortunate passenger.

It was the summer after my high school graduation and I was traveling to visit my grandparents in Arizona for a month and a half.  I had gotten sick the night before—I suspected food poisoning, but after a week of hell my grandparents’ doctor concluded that it was “just a virus.”

I had no idea what the next month in a half held in store for me.  I loved my grandparents, but I was nervous about visiting them, and not just because I felt like all of my insides were trying to violently break free.  They were old, I wasn’t sure how to relate to them, and they lived in a tiny town where I knew no one and had no friends.  Not that it would matter if I couldn’t survive my stomach’s rebellion.

Somehow, I survived that flight.  And the succeeding three-hour drive to my grandparents’ home.  And a sleepless night of faithful worship at the throne of the porcelain god.  My grandmother was very kind, got me anything I asked for, and periodically woke up to check on me.  It didn’t help.  All I wanted was my home, my mom, my friends, my house, my bed, and my toilet.

Despite my negativity, Grandma and I bonded a lot that first week.  Our friendship developed by taking bets on how long I could keep food down and watching movies in the meantime (since I didn’t have the physical strength to do anything else).  We laughed together and cried together through various movies, and as I slowly regained strength I helped her preserve cherries and other fruit.  Eventually I could even accompany her on walks with the dog, Mollie.

On one such walk, I made a glorious discovery.  There is a small creek that runs by my grandparents’ house with blackberry bushes growing all along the banks.  One day as we walked near the creek, I saw the glimmer of sun off something small and black.  It was a blackberry!  And one of the sweetest, juiciest creations under heaven that I have ever experienced.

The discovery sparked a whole new fervor in the house.  Gramps got involved as well, and before long he and I were off, a bucket in each hand to gather berries for jam.  As we picked berries, he told me stories of his childhood, like how he and my great-aunt would always eat more berries than they picked from the blueberry patch and come home with juice all over their faces and hands.

At one point, in his quest for the biggest, ripest blackberries, Gramps tripped over a fallen log and fell.  I rushed to his side but he waved away my offer of help.  Near tears, he was more concerned about the spilled berries; his buckets had been nearly full.  I couldn’t help but think of a little boy who had lost some precious treasure.  Though not a major tragedy by appearances, to him everything was ruined.

As I reassured him and helped him scoop his treasures back into the buckets, I had a revelation that became a major turning point in my life.  I stopped seeing people’s differences and realized that regardless of age, race, religion, or nationality, we are fundamentally all the same—children in a world of blackberries and fallen trees.

~ Amelia Western, Provo, Utah

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