Bittersweet Cherries

In his poem “Fall,” the great Kentucky poet Wendell Berry writes:

The wild cherries ripen, black and fat,

Paradisal fruits that taste of no man’s sweat.

Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat;

When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.

The idea of finding the silver lining in a set of difficult circumstances is something I have written about in other posts. But, I was particularly taken with Wendell Berry’s expression of a related idea in this poem. In describing the cherries, he doesn’t seem to be talking about finding a hint of sweet taste amidst their overarching bitterness, which would be akin to finding a silver lining in a dark cloud. It seems, instead, that these cherries may contain no sweetness whatsoever. However, by knowing and understanding their bitterness, they nevertheless may taste sweet. To me, this idea is one of transformation: reaching an intimate understanding of the thing that is bitter makes it possible to alter the bitterness, to convert it into something sweet.

Now to transition from the sublime to the more mundane.

My mother and I repeat the same conversations. For example, when I visit and knock on her door, she yells, “Who is it?” Quoting an Electric Company (the PBS children’s program from my childhood) skit, I always respond, “It’s the plumber, I’ve come to fix the sink.” This is our banter every day.

Since the weather has become colder, we have added a new piece to our repertoire.

In the car, I turn on the seat warmer for her seat.

Mommy: “This seat feels good.  It is so warm on my butt.”

Kim: “It is?”

Mommy: “I think I’m going to have an orgasm!”

Kim: “Wow, can I sit in that seat?”

Mommy: “No!”

Kim: “You are hogging all the fun.”

Mommy: “I am hogging all the fun, Kim Reeder!”

Mutual laughter ensues.

Tonight my mother and I performed this skit at least ten times as I drove her to and from my house for dinner. On the one hand, a few years ago I couldn’t have imagined that this would be a conversation between my mother and me. That is the bitter part. But, today our antics tasted awfully sweet. I think she likes repeating this conversation because she loves the normalcy. She loves the certainty of having this exchange with me and knowing what she is supposed to say, how I will respond and, most important, that she can make me laugh – every single time. I, of course, just love seeing her happy.

  2 comments for “Bittersweet Cherries

  1. Kerry
    January 3, 2015 at 3:50 am

    How very true. Great piece!!

  2. Chance
    January 3, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Kim, I recognize this pattern with your mother so well. So beautifully said.

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