Strawberries.

This photo, by Justin Sewell, has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license.

This photo, by Justin Sewell, has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license.

Ginny’s favorite part of visiting her grandparents for the summer was going to the farmers market every Saturday. She didn’t really like the house that smelled like Pine-Sol and Vapo-Rub. There were no other children that came to stay in the retirement community her father’s parents lived in. Even though there was a pool, it was usually filled with senior citizens doing water aerobics, and they didn’t like how much Ginny splashed while she was swimming.

Bingo night could have been fun, but the prizes were not suitable for a girl of eight-and-a-half. She didn’t need a Clapper to turn on lights in the house, or a pair of wool slippers that made her feet itch. But that is what she’d won. She gave the Clapper to her grandfather, who loved to clap the lights on and off just to confuse his wife as she cooked dinner. The slippers were hiding under the bed in the guest room. Ginny already planned on forgetting them there so she wouldn’t have to take them home. Her dad would never buy her a new pair of slippers if he knew she’d won a pair.

But every Saturday morning, her grandmother would wake her up before the sun rose. Sleepily she’d eat a bowl of granola and banana while her grandmother bustled about planning meals and making a list of produce she’d need for the week. Ginny would wear her sneakers that flashed purple lights with every step. Grandmother would drive them in a golf cart to the farmers market, and Ginny loved to sit on the back where the golf bags usually rode. She enjoyed watching the world in reverse. She would smile and wave to the other older people who were out picking up their newspaper or climbing into their own carts. She’d wave to everyone, feeling like she was the queen in a parade.

Her grandmother never made her stay by her side while she shopped and negotiated prices with the tanned men and women patrolling their stands. Sometimes Ginny would stay with her and help pick out the ripest and least bruised of the fruits and vegetables, but most of the time she would wander through the thin crowd and imagine she was a princess visiting the commoners in disguise. Jasmine had always been her favorite of the Disney princesses because her best friend was a tiger, and Ginny knew what it felt like to have no control over your own life.

Ginny was always given five dollars that she could spend as she wished at the farmers market. Her dad always commented that she could save a lot of money over the summer if she pocketed the money her grandparents gave her, but she never did. She would spend every cent. It was her money. During the rest of the year, she had to beg her dad whenever she needed or wanted something. But in the summer, she could have whatever she wanted.

She always bought a small bushel of strawberries from the man in a sombrero who looked even older than her grandfather and always wore the same dirty blue flannel shirt. No matter how warm it was, he was always wearing the flannel shirt. And Ginny always bought her strawberries from him. He had never spoken a word that Ginny had heard, but he always slipped her an extra 50 cents in her change. She knew he gave her a discount, but that wasn’t why she always bought from him. She liked his smile, his kind and cloudy eyes, and the way he smelled like autumn even in summer.

He winked at her every time Ginny walked up to his booth and handed her a small green basket of strawberries. She’d had him her crisp five dollar bill, pretend not to notice he gave her $4.50 in change instead of $4, and take a bite out of the biggest, ripest of the berries in her basket. Then she’d smile at him with her strawberry-stained lips, say a polite ‘thank you’, and walk off to the next booth.

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6 comments on “Strawberries.”

  1. Katy B.

    That was a very sweet step back in time. She was luck to have those visits (breaks from home) with her grandparents.

  2. Joe

    From the opening sentence, I knew that I was in for a fitting homage to the farmers market, and I was not disappointed. The description of the strawberry farmer sealed it, for me. “His kind and cloudy eyes?” Awesome.

    • Roxanne

      I could use one. I hate taking a running leap into bed after I turn off the light. Especially since my bed is on the floor and there’s no way anything could fit under it…

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