Blueberry Muffins by Dana Spincola

I already begin to wonder what memories of childhood my little guy will talk about in his future. What moments or events will he hold as special or will he feel attached to when he comes home as an adult to visit the “house he grew up in?”

I am not so certain that the most memorable experiences will be ones that my husband and I agonize over to be “just right.” For example, at twenty months old the little guy has already been to the zoo, on vacation, aquarium, beach, friends’ parties, a cake smash photo shoot and had a themed first birthday party that imposed more stress for the “just right look” on me, than it probably meant for him. I am fairly certain the only memories he will have of these events thus far are pictures and photo books. As a Disney fan myself, I have already been questioned more times than not, “When are you bringing him to Disney?” But the reality is that I am not ready yet and I know, like the less dramatic events he’s already participated in, he will have no memory of such a trip at this age and I will be overly stressed and worried about making it “just right.” Yet, I think about my childhood and the memories that are most dear to me, and despite the lavish vacations my family took and my princess type Sweet 16 party, the memories I have of homemade blueberry muffins are the most meaningful.

Adjacent to our seventy-five foot driveway in the house where I grew-up, were three tiers of blueberry bushes that my parents inherited from the previous owners in the seventies. Each tier housed approximately ten to twelve bushes and each and every summer, there was the daunting task of picking the ripe, but not over ripe nor under ripe blueberries several times throughout the season. The under ripe lime green colored berries stood out in a colander of plump purple berries, while the overripe ones easily squished flat as soon as they were washed. It wasn’t hard, even as a seven year old, to pick the right ripe berries. They often grew in clumps of five or six and usually you could pull them all with one quick twist. Occasionally there were a few stems that had to be disregarded, but it was simple enough to pull the small stem off and throw it on the ground. Often, many of the overripe berries were eaten by the birds before my sister and I even got outside to pick the first harvest.

Our first venture outside would usually be before school was out for the summer at the end of June, and usually by mid August we had had our fair share of picking, washing, eating or being creative with what to do with such an abundance of blueberries. But, it was a summer milestone in our adolescent and teenage lives to sport shorts, a tee and flip flops to go out with our empty colanders to pick a plethora of berries. And it was always with careful maneuvering that we tried to keep our feet from being stained with the falling overripe berries.

Without discussion or mention, we each always started at the same bush, moving from left to right from the top tier to the bottom. Many afternoons we never even got to the bottom tier either from having lost interest in the task or the colanders were too full to hold any more. Yet, even if we went out the very next day, we would once again begin with the furthest right bush on the top tier. It was just an unspoken understanding of how to pick blueberries at our house.

Most of the berries were eaten by the handful straight from the refrigerator after they had been washed; many times from the same colander they had been first placed in when we picked them. Occasionally, when there was an over abundance or when we wanted to do something different, my mom would make blueberry pancakes, but the usual standard was blueberry muffins on a weekend morning. Often it was the smell of these muffins baking that woke me on a weekend when I was very young, or something I grew to like doing myself, as I got older. In our home, blueberry muffins always looked the same, smelled the same, tasted the same, and I would almost dare to say that each had the same number of blueberries. Since they were more times than not immediately served from the oven for breakfast, my parents had devised a plan for keeping them warm throughout the morning. That is, use a dishtowel to line a wicker basket and re-cover the muffins with the towel each time you took one out. Many of our dish towels had purple stains on them from the bursting hot muffins, even when they were just being used to dry dishes in the off season of blueberries. The muffins stayed in that basket with the towel all weekend, long after they were cool, even though the muffins usually never made it to Monday morning. Of course they didn’t stay warm for long despite their toweled robe, but it was a sense of accomplishment, of childhood, and of family to see that basket on the counter throughout the weekend.

Although I haven’t asked, I would venture to guess that when my parents bought that house in the early seventies that they did not stand on the driveway looking out at the blueberry bushes thinking, “This is where childhood memories will be made for our children.” Despite the numerous renovations our house has gone through and the abundance of memories I have from other occasions, I can honestly say that there isn’t a time I drive up that driveway even now when I don’t think about those blueberry bushes.

Unfortunately, but for practicality, those bushes were pulled and replaced with hedges over two decades ago. At first there was some young adult whining on my part, “Oh, you’re taking out the blueberry bushes? How sad.” But the reality at that time was that picking the berries each season was more burdensome than it was fun, and it was far easier to buy a package of blueberries at the store than stand in the sun picking them.

Now, as I drive up that driveway with my little guy in tow, I usually say, “and that is where the blueberry bushes once were.” When he gets older, I’ll explain how his Aunt and I were “in charge” of picking them every summer and all the blueberries we ate growing up in all forms. Ironically, he loves blueberries in all forms too!

So, I realize that in trying to forcibly make memories for my son, he will encounter his own in his own way. Yes, I do hope that he remembers family outings and special occasions, but just by allowing him the opportunity to explore on his own, he will make his own blueberry muffin memories. It won’t be blueberry muffins for him. I don’t know what it will be. But I do hope it is something he can share later in life without me even knowing how meaningful it was for him at the time.

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  1. One Response to “Blueberry Muffins by Dana Spincola”

  2. I know that my grandson will have his memories of playing in the same house and yard that him mom did. How lucky for me that I will have two generations of my memories with them at this house.

    By Joyce Spincola on Oct 8, 2015