Blueberries Bring Back Catskills Memories

29 Dec

I love blueberries.

Almost every morning I add them to my breakfast menu.  Some days I have them for a snack in the middle of the day.

When I eat blueberries I feel joy.  When I eat blueberries I travel back in time.  I am no longer sitting in my kitchen in Kansas.  No I am now sitting at a table with my Mom, sister and brother.  It is summer time.  Cool in the mornings, warm in the afternoons…the perfect weather even when it rains!

Blueberries bring me back to the Catskills at Kauneonga Lake, BethEl Township, in Sullivan County, upstate New York in the 1950s and 60s.

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My entire childhood, we spent the summers at a small bungalow colony owned by my maternal grandparents.  Situated on West Shore Road, just opposite Kauneonga Lake, the bungalow colony was the home to all four of my grandparents, some aunts and uncles, cousins, other assorted relatives, and close friends.  We spent 10 weeks together every year.  The happiest times were there.

We biked, we swam, we played.  It was in the Catskills that I stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.  And it was there that I watched the hundreds of thousands stream into town for the Woodstock concerts.  In the Catskills I spent time at the Firemen’s Festival, shopped at Newmans and Vassmers.   Worked in the town’s bakery.  I lived for the summers.

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 We were watched my five grandmas: Grandma Thelma and Grandma Esther, were my true grandparents.  Grandma Rose was my cousins’ other grandma.  Nana, or Mrs Anoff, was my friend’s grandma.  And Aunt Minnie was also Grandma Esther’s sister.  They ruled the roost.  When they wanted something done, it happened.  There were moms, dads, and grandpas as well. But the eyes of the grandmas were always alert.

Sometimes, when we got too bored or in too much trouble, the buckets would come out.

“Go pick some blueberries!”  One of the moms or grandmas would say.

And heaven opened.

Next to my grandparents’ property was a blueberry patch.  As a child I never thought about it.  But this patch was not just a few wild blueberry bushes growing on the side of the woods, no this was over an acre of blueberry bushes.  Someone at some time had to have cultivated it and planted the bushes in the symmetrical lines.  But there it stood…abandoned.   And so each summer it provided us with wonderful free fruit.

We would grab those buckets and run to the patch.  Filling the buckets was so much fun.  Two berries for the bucket, …one berry to eat.

“Look at the size of this berry!!  I am going to eat it!!!”

We would all run over to see the biggest blueberry ever!!!

And watch as it was eaten with glee and joy.   We all wanted to find the biggest berry!

The buckets always got filled. Then we would run back to our bungalows and show off our blueberries to our moms.  The next step was to fill a bowl with salt water and put in the berries.  The bad ones, the ones with worms or the ones not ripe, would float to the top.  These we put back outside for the birds.  The others we washed and ate.  Some got put in the refrigerator for later.

They made the best blueberry pancakes. I can still taste them.

But every once in a while, we were told to bring all the blueberries to Aunt Leona’s bungalow.  And there, my Grandma Esther and my aunt would make blueberry muffins for all!!!  Oh yum!  I can still smell the tantalizing aroma; see them warm from the oven and covered in butter.  It was a special treat.

So today when I go to the grocery store and buy pint after pint of blueberries, no matter the price, I am not buying my favorite fruit. I am buying a moment to revisit a moment of childhood and remember the joy of picking blueberries.

I am buying time with my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles who have passed.  I am buying memories that I share with my sister, brother, cousins and friends.

I loved the blueberry patch.

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3 Responses to “Blueberries Bring Back Catskills Memories”

  1. burt December 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    we always went blueberry picking also. My grandmother would make her famous blueberry pie, and we always had blueberry jam.

  2. Stu January 5, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    I never realized how much I got out of picking those blueberries. Thanks for the memory.

    • zicharon January 5, 2014 at 12:38 am #

      Happy to bring back good memories. 🙂

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