It was the last day of school, a cloudless, balmy June day. As my sisters and I were meandering up the steep mountain road after school - happily anticipating the long summer months - we spotted a patch of wild strawberries alongside the road. What a contrast the bright red berries presented as they nestled among the emerald green grass!
While picking and eating the delectable berries, I had the benevolent idea of taking some home to Mother. Although I had no container for carrying them, I quickly decided that the pockets of my new dress would serve the purpose quite well.
It was customary for girls to wear a new dress the last day of school when I was living in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the 1930s. My mother, a fine seamstress, made all the dresses for my four sisters and me.
This particular last-day-of-school dress was fashioned from a spring-green material and had white cap sleeves and white pockets gathered at the top.
With strawberries in both pockets, I proceeded toward home. Soon the full significance of my hasty decision became apparent. The small fruit had become mushy, and the juice was oozing through the pockets. My steps became progressively slower as I trailed behind my sisters. How could I have been so thoughtless! After all, I knew the time and loving care that had gone into making this special dress.
I had watched Mother pin the pattern to the fabric and perform the many additional steps for completing the dress. Actually, Mother was in the process of hemming it the night before when I told her good night. I could hardly wait for morning to wear it!
How would Mother react to the berry stains? I had no fear of a spanking, for Mother was not a spanker. If we did something wrong, she would promptly sit us down and patiently explain why it was wrong. If, however, we repeated the offense, we were then disciplined. Usually our punishment was to perform indoor chores and not go outside.
Mother's disciplinary action was never harsh. But to my sisters and me, with such an enthusiasm for the freedom and beauty of the outdoors, whatever kept us indoors was indeed punishment.
On reaching home that day, I ran up to my mother and without preamble, and in a voice I scarcely recognized as my own, blurted out, "Here, these are for you," and pointed to my pockets.
Mother was busily pouring paraffin wax atop cherry preserves in small glasses. Without interrupting her work, she glanced briefly at my pockets. My sisters, who were standing directly behind me, were wondering, just as I was, what the verdict would be. And during what seemed an eternity, Mother stopped pouring wax, wiped her hands on her apron, then hugged me and said ever-so-gently, "Thank you, dear. How thoughtful." I am quite certain that during my nine years I had never loved my mother more than at that moment.
Some years later, I married and had a daughter, Judy. When she was about five years old, we were visiting some friends in the country. Our friend's daughter and Judy decided to fly kites in a nearby meadow. While they were running through the meadow, they stumbled upon a patch of wild strawberries. After eating some of the berries, Judy decided to bring some to me, but she had no container. She concluded that her pockets would serve the need quite well.
When Judy rushed inside, all smiles and quite obviously pleased with her bounty, she said breathlessly, "Here, Mommy, these berries are for you. There's lots and lots in the field," and she pointed in that direction.
Looking from her stained pockets to her berry-stained mouth, my first impulse was to scold her for ruining the new dress. But then I recalled when I had been guilty of the same "offense." And I remembered, too, how my mother had handled the situation with such diplomacy and love. So I hugged my little daughter and said, "Thank you, honey."