Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whenever I Pick Blueberries I Think of Helen Keller

It's blueberry season in Vermont and whenever I pick blueberries I think of Helen Keller.

The Meltons lived on a 40-acre hilltop gentleman's farm in Weston, Connecticut for the first eight years of my life. We had an apple orchard, grape arbor, and a variety of fruit trees and bushes -- blueberries amongst them--as well as a large vegetable garden. We considered Helen Keller and her companion, Polly Thompson, our neighbors, although their home in Easton was about 15 miles from ours in Weston. Helen and Polly came annually in mid-summer for a day of blueberry picking.

Helen's magnetism radiated so that even our dignified German shepherd, Caesar, usually slow to make friends, sat at her feet accepting loving pats. It had somehow been explained to me, age three, that Helen would "see" me through her hands -- not to be afraid, but just to stand still and quiet while Helen touched my face, my hands, my hair. I remember standing there awed while this large shadow in slacks with a huge sun hat bent down to meet me. Afterwards she said through Polly: "Beautiful! Slender, pretty, lovely hair."

Then she and Polly and our dog would go off for the berries, while my mother prepared a lunch of freshly picked corn on the cob and hamburgers cooked to order on the outdoor stone grill. Someone would ring the big old Navy bell on the back porch to call everyone to chow. Afterwards, Helen loved to wander through the vegetable garden, gently touching the sun-warmed tomatoes, bell peppers, squash. They resumed their berry picking in the afternoon.

My logical mind now wonders: How did she know which ones were ripe? Was her touch so delicate that only the ripes ones fell into the bucket on a string around her neck? Or did she simply pick everything for someone else to sort out later? Or didn't it matter? Was it the sun and activity and a meal with friends that were the only important thing?

More about the Meltons and Helen Keller in a later post.

1 comment:

  1. Have been reading your blog with great interest and was very glad to find it. My husband, Charles Spencer was told by his late grandmother Bessie (Colbert)Melton and his late Uncle Charles C. Melton that your father was a cousin of theirs. You father's photograph was proudly displayed in his granmother's living room. His grandfather's name was Zebulon Vance Melton, born around 1900 in North Carolina. We have gathered a small collection of your father's music on CD's, as well as a couple of 78's and a few 33's. If you wish to contact us, our e-mail address is as follows: If not, we both wanted to let you know that we really enjoy your blog. It is very interesting!!! We look forward to future postings!!!