Every year we went to a Pick-Your-Own orchard during our years in Maryland. I guess I was around 3 years old the first time I got to go with the family instead of having a babysitter.
The place grew strawberries, corn, apples, peppers, oranges, lemons, limes, apricots, peaches and so much more. It was one of my favorite places to go and I felt like I had found a magical world, running through the elbow high grass around the orchards, never thinking twice about snakes or spiders.
I would pick the strawberries and put one in the basket, one in my mouth. I probably ate more than I picked for the family, now that I think about it. My face and hands would be stained with the sticky sweet juices of the ripest berries on the vine. Red streams would dribble from the corners of my mouth and drip onto my clothes from my chin. I either looked like a vampire - or something much more horrible and true, a strawberry thief.
The corn patch was huge! I can recall times I would stand on the outskirts of the cornfield with a big round laundry basket and pick up the corn my family would toss out to me. They would wade in as far as they needed to in order to find the best ears of corn they could get their hands on. As they would toss it out, I would run around grabbing it up and making child sized slam-dunks in the basket. I was too short to pick the corn yet, so mom and dad invented this job just for me. Nobody else was allowed to do it, and that made me feel so much more important. Mom would even tell me that it was the most important job of all, because without me, the corn would never make it into the basket. I'm sure I glowed at that. I've always wanted to feel needed.
I got pretty good at it! I would dash here and there, grabbing up the ears of corn and either tossin them into the basket as I dashed past for the next one, or I would bundle them into my tiny arms, four or five at a time, and dump them all at once. I would be covered in grass stains from crawling around on the ground to pick them up if I fell behind.
One day I leaned over to pick up an ear of corn my brother threw out toward me, and as I did, another ear came sailing out from my mother’s direction. I saw the green husk and fuzzy, hairy end flying at my face, faster and faster it seemed to come. I didn't have the time needed to move out of the way. I just stood there and watched it for that split second.
My world went instantly dark. I fell straight back on my butt, clutched my forehead, and wailed! When mom found out what had happened she felt horrible! I knew she didn’t do it to me on purpose, but I was still very angry with her, and I milked it for all it was worth.
I think I got a Smurf's coloring book out of that one...