Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tough as room temperature butter

Did Boo Bug and Danger Mouse want to go blackberrying yesterday? {SQUEAL!!!}

It was possibly the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them in the last few days!! So we put on jeans and we rigged some buckets (Costco-sized margarine tubs with rug-wool yarn handles) and we leaped into the Homer the Odyssey and drove the 3.7 miles (with them demanding if we were there yet every fifteen seconds) to one of many tributaries of the Sacramento River – the nearest spot where there were blackberry bushes meeting my requirements that they be not too close to the water nor too close to the road.

Talking a mile a second, giggling, swinging their buckets, my two assistants jumped out of the minivan and charged at the bushes. They were going to fill both buckets all the way up! And mommy’s plastic shopping bag, too!! They were going to pick every single blackberry on the whole river, THAT’S RIGHT!!!!

Two seconds later, they were scrambling up the hood of the van, squealing like, well, little girls.

“What?!” I shrieked, expecting them to scream, “snake!” or “rat!” or “hedge fund manager!”

“Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod,” Danger Mouse panted.

“Mommmmmmeeeeeeee…” Boo Bug whimpered.

“WHAT?!”

“There’s…{giggle}…mommy? {giggle-giggle} there’s a…ohmygod…{giggle}…”

“Spit. It. OUT.” At this point, I’m expecting Jimmy Hoffa’s zombie corpse to rise from the delta muck and shamble toward me menacingly.

“It’s a…spider!” Danger Mouse finally erupted. Boo Bug let out a long, low moan of pure terror.

“A…spider…”

“A BIG spider!” Danger Mouse asserted, pointing a quivering finger at the fourteen mile long by twelve mile high by sixty mile deep mass of blackberry bramble.

Sigh. Yeah. Like I’m going to be able to see a little bitty spider she’s pointing at from twenty feet away in that monster!

“Now listen, girls,” I began sternly as I approached the bushes. “There are going to be spiders out here. That’s par for the course. This is the delta, they grow pretty big out here, so you just have to watch where you put your SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY!!!”

The first spider was about the size of my thumb, and was sunning itself on a web that stretched a good two feet across the brambles. Below it was a slightly smaller one on a bigger web, and above it was, hmm, their grand-pappy I suspect because dog-dang, the sucker was huge. If I’d put it on my palm (which was so not going to happen), it’s legs would have gone from my wrist to the middle knuckle of my fingers. It’s body was the size of the palm beneath the thumb the other spider was the same size as.

Massive. And very much not alone. They were everywhere, webs glistening in the sun, stretched out like tourists soaking up the rays and waiting for some hapless bug or other to wander into the web.

Eventually, the girls got over their initial quivers and approached the bushes again. They squealed with horror as I reached in to pluck berry after berry from the vine.

“Watch out for spiders!” Boo Bug would scream, every.single.time. Even though believe you me, I was watching out for spiders.

And if a spider happened to scuttle out or start jumping up and down on its web because it thought my actions meant dinner was forthcoming, she would scream even louder and run back to the van.

Sigh. Yeah. I breed ‘em tough, people.

Danger Mouse hovered at my elbow and coached me. “Ooooh, mommy, there’s a whole bunch of big ones! You should get them…no, no, there! Right there!

“Why don’t you get them? I’ve got plenty right here!”

“Welllllllllll…I just think you should get them…”

Ten minutes after we had parked, Danger Mouse began complaining that she was too hot. Hot. So hot. Toooooooo hot. Could she go sit in the van? It’s even hotter in the van right now, babe. Oh. Well, maybe you could turn it on, and then the air conditioning would keep it cold?

Speaking of cold, ice cream should would be good, huh? Huh, mommy? Wouldn’t ice cream be good right now? Iiiiiiiice creeeeeeam…oh! Hey! Here’s an idea! How about we stop picking blackberries (Excuse me, ‘we’? What’s this we, huh? I do believe I’m the only one with stained fingers and bramble-scratched arms around here…), and go to Baskin Robbins instead…?

A few moments after that, a bird ran through the bushes. Twin shrieks of panic went up, two pairs of feet sent up clouds of dust, and a pair of little girls were huddled on the hood of the van again.

“Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod…!” Danger Mouse chanted.

“Mommmmmmeeeee…dere’s somefink in dere…{whimper}…” Boo Bug was about to faint. Somefink! Was! In! Dere! Possibly a flesh-eating MUMMY or a purple-breasted BRAIN-SUCKER!!!!!

“It’s. A. BIRD! Geeeeeeez…!”

Five minutes later: I need to go potty.

Thirty seconds after that: So…thirsty…must…have…water…no, not that kind, the REALLY COLD kind…you know…from…{dramatic gasp indicating death from dehydration is nigh}…Starbucks

A split second after this: OH! Are we going to Starbuck now?!

Thirty seconds after that: Can we go swimming in the river? We don’t mind getting our clothes wet…

Two seconds after that: SCREAM! SCREAM! SCREAM! THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE WATER! OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE!!!!!!! (It was a branch. An admittedly snake-y looking one, but it. was. a. BRANCH!

But the final straw came when the same duet of ear-splitting shrieks went up over an…wait for it…orange.

Yes. As in, the common orange-colored citrus fruit. Someone had dropped an orange by the side of the road, where nature had run its course (probably with a little help from a passing vehicle) and the orange had splattered all over the place.

Scream-SHRIEK! OHMYGOD, Mommy, it’s an ORANGE, and it looks like its BRAINS are all SPLATTERED!!!!

Ewwwwwwww, orange-brains! GROSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

Less than half an hour after we pulled in to start picking, we were packing it in. I just couldn’t take the constant screaming, the cries of panic, the fear that Boo Bug was going to lose her mind and run straight into the road because ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, a butterfly almost landed on her!!!!!

My youngest daughter is terrified of pretty much all bugs, regardless of their friendliness. The butterflies most of us find charming and sweet, she thinks of a terrifying, irrational, fast-moving insect that is probably intent on biting her somehow.

They were looking into their buckets at our haul as we marched the few feet back to the minivan, discussing how many we’d gotten and exhibiting the magical ability most kids have to completely forget Plan A ever existed. Fill up the buckets all the way? Both of them? Pffffft, nobody ever said anything about that. There’s gotta be a hundred pounds of berries in these two (barely a quarter filled) buckets.

And then, another scream.

And a thud.

And a whole bunch of plink-plonk-plink-plink-plink…plonk!...plonk…

“Um…mommy? Uh…look at what Boo Bug, erm, did…”

Half our haul was hurtled into the water because there was an ant on one of the berries.

Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God. Oh. My. GOD.

An ant. Oh. Horrors. Save us, somebody, please, save us.

Oh Mighty River, take the blackberries, just spare our lives from the Dreaded Little Black Ants, which come to eat our soooooooouls…

I took a few deep breaths.

I reminded myself that they were awfully cute, when they were babies.

And that California law takes a very dim view of people who throw their seven year olds into a river with instructions to get back every last berry, missy.

I then took the surviving bucket away and set it on the passenger seat beside me – the last thing I would need is a bucket of blackberries hurtled at the back of my head at 50 miles an hour on a levee road because OH MY GOD AN ANT.

We drove, calmly, back to the Den. I washed the ants off the remaining blackberries (discretely), and set them aside.

Barely four cups of beautiful berries. Enough for a pie, anyway, but pretty far short of the gallon I was hoping to get yesterday.

Oh well. There’s still a fair amount of season left for them.

Next time, I’ll go alone.

…geez Louise, what a pair of pansies

11 comments:

Stephanie said...

One of my sisters started crying (with tears!) because a fly landed on her. A fly! She was 8.

She's the one who was only 2 when we moved from AR to CA. The rest of us, girls and boys alike, saw nothing wrong with lizards and snakes as pets or picking dewberries by the ditch along 10th Street. (My parents? Did not help. Smaller arms = fewer scratches or something. Or maybe I am misremembering.)

Somewhere Else said...

Falling about laughing - thanks!!

Anonymous said...

what? go alone so they'll never get over their silliness?

Steph B said...

ROFLMBOOOOOOOO!!! That's hysterical. I have to admit that huge spiders would make me take a second look, but good grief...a bird? An ant? An ORANGE?!?!? And I thought I was wimpy! Maybe Captain Adventure needs to show 'em how it's done, eh?

(still laughing...)

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Ohmygod - don't EVER show them a magnified picture of a dust mite!

What a great story (for us to read anyway) - truly hysterical.

Marty52 said...

Great story... you have such a talent at putting us right there with you! My boys still remember the times we went dewberry picking... ahhhh the memories!

Anonymous said...

Great story, but I wish you hadn't used the word "pansies," which is insulting to gay people. "Weaklings" or "wimps" would work just as well.

Yarnhog said...

Bwahahahaha! I held it in until the orange brains, and then it just had to come out or my head would have exploded. OMG...that is so freakin' funny! (And, by the way, I would totally have reacted the same way about the spiders. I think I could have stood up to the orange, though. And maybe the ant...)

Anonymous said...

Such drama! My daughter was like that, and now she has a child that tops her for drama. When yours have drama kids you can show them this entry. And laugh.

Firegarnet said...

Funny when I read "pansies" I always think the flower, which is I guess weak in some way? Never associated it with any sexual orientation.

Great story. I would have been IN the van with spiders. Ants? Ick but not worth tossing a whole bucket of berries. Hugs to the traumatized little ones ;)

Anonymous said...

A little more clarification: The OED says in this context pansy means "A male homosexual; an effeminate man; a weakling. Freq. derogatory." So the "weakling" meaning comes from the "gay" meaning, not the "flower" meaning.