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OPINION: Fresh strawberries in June always remind me of my dad

Published on

Bob Boulton

Our house waits 11 months of the year for the arrival of fresh local strawberries – a season that lasts only weeks.

Yes, there are ever-bearing varieties that grow until first frost, and some say they’re as good as June berries.

But this much is true: both are better than the bloated monstrosities available in winter, and all strawberries are expensive.

This year’s sticker shock immediately reminded me of my father, a man who worked hard to cover his family’s expenses and provide for its pleasures.

But he was, shall we say, careful about money leaving his pocketbook.

Latner’s restaurant at Northgate was a couple of rungs above our normal dining-out budget options and the Guildwood Inn – where my friend Bruce went every Sunday – was out of the question.

“Go easy on the eats,” was Dad’s oft-repeated maxim.

No doubt he inherited such thrift from his own parents. They struggled, cheerfully by all accounts, to support their large family on a 50-acre farm on the 6th Line of Moore (later 100 acres after an unexpected windfall bequest from a distant relative). When all the kids were simultaneously healthy they attended the local Presbyterian church.

Recently I learned that Paterson Memorial, the Presbyterian church located behind my boyhood home on Wellington Street, has changed its name to Emmanuel Presbyterian. And that triggered more memories of my Dad.

The first was of us working together to build a picket fence between our driveway and the expanded church parking lot. Dad said if we would erect the fence the church would pay for the materials. After I drove one of the supporting pipe uprights too far into the ground – teenage man-boys not being renowned for restraint – Dad had to use an enormous wrench to twist the upright back up to the required height. He did it without a word of criticism.

“There,” was all he said.

The other involved Paterson Memorial’s annual Strawberry Supper. One year, right around Father’s Day, Mom and Dad and I were trimming the backyard grass, while behind us the church folks set up tables.

At the advertised hour we parked ourselves in the corner of our yard nearest the church, dished up our own strawberries at our own table, and when the festivities called for silence or applause, we stayed quiet or laughed along with everyone else.

William Wordsworth, in his poem about Tintern Abbey, remarked on:

“… that best portion of a good man’s life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love.”

I wish my Dad were still beside me so that I could thank him now for what I didn’t thank him for then.

“There,” I’d say.

Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse.


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