One of my favorite childhood memories is of my Grandpa and I standing under his delightful Juneberry tree eating the delicious berries. I loved them. Juneberries look similar to a blueberry, only more burgundy than blue. They have a distinct taste – rather somewhere between the sweetness of a blueberry and the tartness of a raspberry.
When I was young, every summer, as soon as school let out in June, our family drove from California back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to stay with my grandparents while my Dad worked on his graduate degree.
My sister and I enjoyed the long summer days by swimming in the waters of Lake Michigan, playing with friends and relaxing in a sauna. My grandparents didn’t own a sauna, but many neighbors did due to the large Finnish population. There were also an abundance of wild raspberry and blueberry bushes – but nothing rivaled the taste of the Juneberry.
Over the years, I’ve often thought about those Juneberries. I could still remember how they tasted. Since my grandpa’s tree grew in snowy Michigan, I always assumed that, like the paper birch trees, it wouldn’t thrive in sunny California.
When my husband and I retired and moved to North Carolina, I enjoyed getting to learn about a new culture and climate. I especially loved watching the wide variety of birds that would regularly visit one of our many bird feeders.
One day, while reading a backyard gardening book, I came across an article that discussed the problem that the Carolinas were experiencing with Bradford pear trees. It caught my attention as our home came with a couple of twenty-year-old Bradford pears. It turns out that they are quite invasive. Also noted among its list of evils was that trees tended to drop major branches as they aged.
The article concluded with a suggestion to replace the pear trees with a native Serviceberry, or Juneberry tree.
That really got my attention. I hadn’t thought about the yummy Juneberries in years. Just the mention of them brought back quite a few pleasant memories of my grandpa and me munching on berries from his tree. I shared my ‘Juneberry’ memories with my family so they would appreciate the significance of this tree.
The timing was perfect as my husband and I were currently in the process of taking out the Bradford trees in our yard. We decided to replace them with Juneberries. After an extensive search, we were quite frustrated to learn that even though they are native and grow well in this area, we were unable to find any Juneberry trees. Sad.
One day, our daughter told me she had a surprise birthday present for me. One of the reasons it was a surprise is that my birthday was several months ago. It turned out that she was able to locate a Juneberry tree for me. Yea!
What a wonderful gift! We set about caring for our tree. I couldn’t wait to eat a Juneberry all these decades later. It was exciting when it bloomed with beautiful white flowers. When the flowers faded away, they left behind the beginnings of a tiny berry.
Watching the berries grow, it occurred to me that the birds may be anticipating their sweet goodness as well. To prevent sharing too many with the birds, my husband and I draped bird netting over the skeleton of an old umbrella to cover the tree. It worked well. Over time, the little berries ripened to a beautiful burgundy color. Finally, the day came. The berries were ripe. Awww, they were so good.
It was very satisfying to share my Juneberry story with my children and grandchildren. Research has discovered that reminiscing is not only fun, but it is also good for the mind. It actually creates new pathways in our brains.
Back when Grandpa and I were munching on those yummy berries it may not have seemed very significant. Nevertheless, talking about those wonderful days of innocence, not only allowed me to re-live some lovely memories, it also gave me the chance to pull back the curtain a bit to give my family a glimpse into my past.
Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy on your own, unique journey.
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