Jamberry — For when life gives you lemons.
A Short Story for Apollo. For when you are older.
“One berry, two berry, pick me a Blueberry!”
I read those words to my six month old son last night. He lay curled comfortably into his loving mother on our faded pink love seat under the light of a single lamp in his room. His little fists curled around his corgi blanket as he suckled on his blue binky (dream big). His brilliant brown eyes wide staring with rapt comprehension as the illustrations came to life before him.
“Hatberry, Shoeberry in my Canoeberry;”
Squirming, the energy of daylight struggling to shine bright as his eye lids slowly lowered to cover his brilliant brown eyes. Bed time?
“Under the bridge and over the dam,”
With a soft little grunt and a hint of moan, baby Apollo shot his eyes back open to stare longingly at the berries as they floated through the page. It’s not time to rest — yet.
“Looking for Berries — Berries for Jam!”
Perhaps it was a sense of nostalgia. Perhaps I’m finally learning what it means to be a father. Maybe it was both? But as I read out-loud the words on the page, my own eyes began to glow with a watery substances that no man should ever know — tears.
No, I didn’t weep. No, I didn’t even shed a tear. But as I sat there watching my son daydream in his own little way, of a shiny colorful world where bears and ducks hangout and dance with children through piles of delicious berries, I was overcome with a thought: “What have I done?”
“Three berry, four berry, Hayberry, Strawberry -”
They say that having a child is one of life’s greatest adventures. It’s the “thing” to do if you’ve got it all figured out, or simply don’t care enough to stop it from happening. But having a child is no small feat. It’s a wondrously complex series of scientifically significant chances that all line up to begin the formation of a life. Some people can’t make it stop — consider it luck. Others want nothing more that to experience it for themselves. No matter, it’s an astonishing accomplishment when a child is brought to life.
“Finger and Pawberry, My Berry, Your Berry;”
But having a child isn’t about you. Bringing a child into the world doesn’t satisfy anything that you “want.” If anything it simply reminds you about how much you had before; sleep being one of those particular “things” you wish you could go back and grab. You will long for a balance between what is yours and mine, but find at the time there is no separation.
“Strawberry Ponies and Strawberry Lambs;”
How “they say it” isn’t the way the world actually works. Your child will eventually grow up and see a world and experience a lifetime that you could never imagine. You have only but to look at your own life to know that this is true. Your parents, your life, they are separate — different, and that’s what makes it beautiful.
“Dancing in meadows of strawberry jam!”
With every page of the book Apollo’s eyes darted from me to the new page, soaking in the sunshines and warmth of characters experiencing a world like nothing he had seen. Listening attentively as each word tap-danced it way across my tongue. Twirling rapidly these characters bought life in abundance to the static pages, trumpeting a world of wonder in meadows of serenity.
“Quickberry! Quackberry! Pick me a Blackberry!”
Life isn’t always sweet. If anything we know that life can be full of quick penetrating bitterness. Like a lemon it can be sour and tart, making your forehead wrinkle and your eyes disappear with a raw bite. Life can quickly devolve into the hunt for the perfect berry, one that is the ripe, sweet, juicy and positively divine. But along the way, life will give you the whack of a bad berry in the back of your throat.
What have I done?
“Trainberry, Trackberry, Clickety-Clackberry;”
Life moves forward, and it never returns. It stops by stations along the way. Encounters weather and environmental conditions that impede its relentless march forward; things that are simply outside of your ability to control. Life gains a rhythm - set from birth, that beats away through the sand endlessly driving to its logical conclusion. Can I guide it?
“Rumble and Ramble in Blackberry Bramble,”
The chug chug chug of motions drive us to grow, experience, move, and occasionally get pricked along the way. But the bruises won’t stop life, and the pages of our story will keep flipping. It will always move forward. Will the bruises define me?
“Billions of Berries for Blackberry Jamble!”
It’s a mistake to believe that you’re the only one. Life is not counted in singular terms but in the collective of tens of thousands of millions and billions. Life is ,in a way, as insignificant as the leaves on the trees. Beautiful, yet destined to fall and be replaced. Does it matter?
“Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razaa-matazz-berry!”
I used to dream of worlds in my head. Fantasies full of rich narratives that guided me home on my walks from school. These stories carried me and filled the bleakness of reality, and kept the boredom at bay. Life is too short not to enjoy it. Yet here I was, lost in the clouds.
“Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland…”
Visions of music used to drift lazily by my ears, kissing gently the mind and touching the soul with care. The sounds and melodies of my youth carried me through the hum drum of existence and ran with me through the fields chasing the northern star. It was the music of my life that captured my imagination. Where is it now?
“Raspberry Rabbits and Brassberry Band,”
The friends I had. The friends I lost. The people that drove me to exceed and the people who believed in me. Some taught me about heartache and anger. Others taught me to love and to be patient. Still others showed me that when life gives you lemons, you can always make sweet sweet lemonade.
“Elephants skating on Raspberry Jam!”
There was no mountain too high, no adventure too silly. My youth was guided by a harmony between reality and fantasy. In everything there was opportunity, in everything there was potential. In everything there was a story.
And yet here I am. Thinking “what have I done?”
Where has the imagination gone that I once had? How did my life become a bucket of lemons? Where… why… how?
As I looked upon my son, and read him the last pages I realized what I had done. I had created a human. A human capable of extraordinary things that I may simply never see. A human capable of making decisions to affect the future. One who was completely dependent upon me, and yet one who would someday leave to steer their own life.
A human who would experience a world that isn’t full of sunshine and rainbows, but full of bridges and bramble. What have I done?
A human who will experience heartache, and feel the pain of immeasurable loss. What have I done?
As the words left my lips on the final page the question screamed in my head: “what have I done?”
Will this child know a world of Jamberry? Will he experience a life of fantasy, swirling melodies and wondrous fields of dancing bears swinging to the beat of a Berryband in a Berryland while ducks, merrily waving, float by in Canoeberries?
I found myself wanting him to know the world that I no longer live in.
“Moonberry, Starberry, Cloudberry Sky-”
Apollo’s eyes had finally closed with a solid thump. His fist was loosening and his breathing had grown calm. His mother looked down and gazed at his round face with love. Softly she said “not yet, keep reading…”
“Boomberry, Zoomberry, Rockets shoot by!”
His feet twitched in his little pajamas onesie, curling up for comfort. Eyeballs moving still rapidly behind the lids it was clear that they hadn’t yet received the memo — it’s bed time, time for rest.
“Mountains and Fountains rain down on me,”
A snore. A beautiful and wonderful snore emitted from his little face as he slowly suckled his binky. It broke through the otherwise still silence of the room. Not even the puppies that lay curled at our feet emitted a noise in the darkness.
“Buried in Berries, what a jam jamboree!”
His mother softly lay him down on his bed. Quietly he stirred at the sudden change of warmth surrounding his little body. After a moment, he settled back down snuggled into his blanket to dream away into the long night.
Puppies in tow, we left his room and gently closed the door with a soft click. His world was in darkness but his mind was full of Jamberry.