If we were having coffee, I’d serve you a slice of homemade quiche with a side of these gorgeous strawberries, bought from a woman who sells them from the parking lot of the Petsmart where I buy dog and cat food and, truth be told, treats and toys for them, too.
We would marvel at their color and sweetness. So much better than grocery store berries, more like the strawberries of my youth in Southern California, where we once lived in a new subdivision planted in former farmland and where a few farms still remained. One hill and a couple of streets down, there was once a fruit and vegetable stand where my mother bought fresh eggs, flats of tomatoes, and baskets of fresh strawberries.
When my great-aunt Nadine was alive she lived in Garden Grove, California, home of the Strawberry Festival, or it was when I was nine years old and we went to the Festival. The Grand Marshall was Lt. David Rehmann, a former Vietnam War P.O.W., and his was the name engraved on the P.O.W. bracelet I wore in protest of the war.
Even as a pre-teen, I was a little political.
This is one of the bracelets being sold on e-bay, which makes me feel a bit ill; my bracelet got snapped in half when Lt. Rehmann returned home. It’s what was done with P.O.W. bracelets. But this is exactly what mine looked like:
So there is some obscure, Vietnam War-era trivia to go with your coffee, quiche, and strawberries.
I actually got to meet Lt. Rehmann the day of the festival; he was nice, and appreciative of the support while he’d been imprisoned. Some months later my mom ran into him at a sporting goods store where she was shopping for my 10th birthday present, a 10-speed bike. He helped her choose one, a beauty with a sparkly blue metallic paint job. This made it special, and also especially hard when it went under the wheels of the car that ran a stop sign and hit me two years later. The bike was completely destroyed, but I flew over the top of the car and walked away banged up and massively bruised, but intact. If we were having coffee, I’d admit the experience made me a bit cheeky about crossing streets; I always figure having been hit once, what are the odds it would happen again?
If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’ve also driven through Watsonville, California, alongside fields where pickers, bent double at the waist, harvested fresh strawberries under a relentless sun, and seeing how literally back-breaking the work is makes me appreciate them even more.
And while we savored the last bit of their sweetness, I’d tell you that if she’s there next weekend, I’m thinking of buying an entire flat of strawberries from the woman in the parking lot, and making jam. And if in a couple weeks we were having coffee, I’d send you home with a jar of homemade strawberry jam.