Chatting over Cherries


I looked out the kitchen window at the cherry tree in our backyard, its branches bent with the weight of fruit. Why hadn’t the birds eaten the cherries? I wondered. During previous years, the fruit had sprouted only to be eaten by birds before it ripened.

But not this summer. Hundreds of bright red cherries sparkled in the morning sunshine. Staring at the bounteous crop, I wondered what to do with all that fruit. I imagined standing on a ladder in the hot sun, picking the plump cherries and extracting their tiny, slippery seeds. That alone would take hours. Then I thought about boiling them into jam or pie filling, or packing them into freezer bags. As I considered the time-consuming work, I secretly hoped the birds would discover the cherries and eat them. The summer was simply too busy to add another job. Swimming lessons, summer science classes, library visits, and Scout activities filled our days. There were always lawns to be mowed and flower beds to be weeded. Did we really need a bunch of cherries to worry about?

Still, I knew I couldn’t let them rot on the tree. I kept hearing my mother’s voice telling me not to waste food. So one steamy morning I gathered buckets and children and we trudged to the backyard to pick cherries.

As we plucked the scarlet fruits, we began to talk—really talk, not at all like our rushed words on the way to swimming lessons or chatter about the evening baseball game. Licking sticky cherry juice from our fingers, we discussed the cycle of life, contemplating the seasons of birth, life, and death—for cherry trees as well as people—and paused to remember a beloved grandfather who had passed away six months earlier.

We talked about pruning fruit trees, and I taught the boys that pruned trees yield more fruit than trees left to grow wild without a gardener’s guidance. We compared fruit trees to our lives and talked about how we, like trees, had to rid ourselves of negative elements.

The children and I marveled at our bumper crop of fruit as the buckets began to overflow with glossy, crimson cherries. We decided our bounty resulted from a rainy spring, and in turn discussed the small miracles abounding in nature, agreeing that Heavenly Father had created a remarkable world for us to enjoy.

We also laughed over family stories and debated whether cherry pie was superior to apple. My preschooler practiced math skills by counting the cherries as he picked them. “This is fun!” the children exclaimed.

As I looked at their exuberant, juice-covered faces, I knew they were right. We were sharing family life at its best, enjoying one another and savoring a rare, slow moment in a busy summer. We’d made memories with a morning of work in the most ordinary of activities. For years I had listened while Church leaders spoke about the value of hard work and encouraged us to grow gardens and tidy up our homes. Undoubtedly they knew there were more benefits than clean yards and orderly homes.

My children and I hauled the heaping buckets into our kitchen and talked about what to do with the fruit. I rinsed the cherries, realizing we had hours of work ahead of us to transform them into gooey jam or sweet, syrupy pie filling. But I didn’t mind. It’d give us another chance to talk together and make more memories.

[illustration] Illustrated by Keith Larson

Lisa Ray Turner serves as a counselor in the Young Women presidency in the Southglenn First Ward, Littleton Colorado Stake.