Memories of the ‘Blackberry Winter’ of life

Published 4:36 pm Friday, May 6, 2011

Mama was a worrier.

Daddy said if Mama didn’t have something to worry about, she would go across the road and borrow something.

That always tickled me. I could just picture Mama walking across the road with a cup in her hand to borrow a worry from Miss Loretta.

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I found a cartoon in a magazine that had a picture of an old lady sitting in a rocking chair. The caption read: Some folks say worryin’ don’t help none. I know it does because nothin’ I ever worried about ever happened.

I cut the cartoon out and gave it to Mama. She laughed and kept on worrying.

Worrying was not anything that I inherited from Mama. I was like Daddy. He didn’t care which way the wind blew. Mama did enough worrying for all of us.

That’s why I wasn’t really worried when I took Mama for a follow-up visit with Dr. Zumstein in May 1994. She hadn’t been feeling well and wasn’t eating. But then, Mama always ate like a little bird.

I grabbed a blue speckled, enamel bucket and tossed it in the backseat of the car with even intention of going blackberry picking after we left the doctor’s office.

Mama could make the best blackberry pies in the world and being as neither one of us wore dentures, we could eat the seeds. Mama said the seeds didn’t agree with her but “a blackberry pie’s not a blackberry pie without seeds,” she would laugh and say.

Things didn’t go as planned at the doctor’s office that day.

I knew the news was bad when Mama came out of the “back” and walked straight through the door.

“What is it, Mama? What’s wrong?” I said chasing after her.

“He said it could be cancer,” she said without looking at me.

At that one moment, my whole world fell apart.

A sad, worried silence filled the car on the way home. The only sound was the rattling of the handle on the blackberry bucket.

When we pulled up in the driveway, Mama looked in the backseat and said, “We forgot to get the blackberries.”

You don’t pick blackberries in a Blackberry Winter.

A Blackberry Winter is a late-spring cold spell that follows the blooming of the blackberry “bushes.” A cold spell came into my heart on that warm, sunny May day and it lingers there today still.

Mama died on January 14, 1995. I’m still waiting for the healing hand of time to ease the hurt that came to me during the Blackberry Winter of 1994.

The cold spell this week brought back that “winter” to me.

“Lord, please. Not a Blackberry Winter.”

My next thought was to rush home and pick the outhouse roses that were blooming along the hogwire fence in the backyard. I couldn’t lose them to a Blackberry Winter.

I discovered the outhouse rose bush making its way back to life last spring.

My grandmother, Mama’s mother, planted what she called outhouse roses decades ago. Over time, they all disappeared. Or I thought. But last spring, I found one brave, thorny shoot crawling along the ground. It was the running rose that always supplied us with pink roses for Mother’s Day. And, I’ve cared for it like it is a very rare specimen, which it is.

“Why do you ‘worry’ so about these roses?” my son asked.

“I reckon I’m like Granny. Just borrowing a worry,” I said.

What I didn’t say was that the outhouse rose, in its simple splendor, is a reminder that, after a Blackberry Winter, comes the spring – where sweet memories linger.

So on this Mother’s Day, I’ll borrow a phrase from Lewis Grizzard, “Hug your mama today. I sure wish I could hug mine.”