Simple Pleasures

July 21, 2011

MamaKat’s Writer’s Workshop asked us to write about simple things (among other prompts) this week. I’m focusing on simple pleasures. Click on over if you’d like to join in the fun, readers! I’m sure there will be some great treats for you over there!


“Well, aren’t you going to congratulate me?”  Mrs. Gilburg stops us in the produce section, a big sack of red cherries hanging in her paw.

Mama smiles a little nervously. “Um, I guess I haven’t heard, Carol…is there something I should congratulate you about?”

Mrs. Gilburg’s lips purse in affront. She looks pointedly at Mama and pats her hips, onetwothreetimes. “Well, obviously, I’m pregnant!”

She looks the same to me, still shaped like a human triangle, but I don’t say a peep.

“Oh! Oh my gosh! Of course! Carol, that’s wonderful news,” Mama says brightly, and they start talking about due dates and swollen ankles but I’m not listening anymore because I can’t stop staring at the cherries in Mrs. Gilburg’s hand. They’re so deep red they’re almost purple, and they shine, plump little orbs of juicy summer sweet.

It takes all of my self-control not to steal one out of the bag, because it’s gaping open on one side, the hole growing larger as she blathers on and on.

Finally she turns, plops the bag in her cart, and says, “Pray for a girl. Fifth time’s the charm, right?” and Mama promises, even though I’m pretty sure God doesn’t answer to anybody, not Mama or Mrs. Gilburg or even President Nixon.

We watch her as she leaves, duck-like.

I’m not supposed to beg for stuff at the store–it’s a rule–but I can’t help it.  “Hey Mama, can we get some of those cherries?”

I’m expecting the usual answer, which is: “Is it on the list?”  I always get that answer and that answer stinks, because boring stuff like fruit cocktail and cabbage and potatoes are always on the list.

She takes one look at the price of cherries and her eyes bug. “Oooh, no. That’s just…above our budget, honey.”

“God! I hate being poor,” my sister says, disgusted.

“We are not poor Miss,” Mama says, danger evident in enunciation. “We are on a bud-get.”

I don’t care what word you use. Poor, budget, doesn’t matter. It just means no cherries, no cherries for me.


Mama blows cigarette smoke, cradling the phone between cheek and shoulder. “How on Earth was I supposed to know she was pregnant? She always wears those tent-like muumuu things. Jesus.”  She paces, twisting the phone cord around her finger. “That’s five kids. Five. How the heck do they feed them all?”

She’s talking to Daddy, who is away on business again. He’s away on business a lot and when he comes home, we always have pot roast, which I hate, because pot roast also means cooked carrots and cooked carrots are evil.

Just the thought of cooked carrots, smooshy and grainy and weirdo, the way they flop on the fork, drives me out the kitchen door and through the garage.  I wheel my tricycle out to the paved walk and ride backandforth, backandforth, down our side of Chestnut Street, because Mama will kill me if I cross.

Neal lets the screen door bang and crosses the street, heading my way. Mrs. Gilburg must not have Street Rules. Neal is my age but he’s twice my size. “Husky,” is what Mrs. Gilburg calls him. It’s something you grow out of, she says, but I’m not so sure. I’ve seen Neal’s older brothers and I don’t think they grew out of anything.

He’s got a fistful of scarlet and he pops one in his mouth, throws the stem onto the street, chews fervently and then spits.

If a bird eats a cherry pit, will a bunch of cherries grow in it’s belly?  Mama will know.

“Hey, Neal,” I say, eyeing the red bundle.

“It’s boring around here,” he says, stuffing another cherry in his mouth.

I shrug.

I don’t talk for a while and he just eats.

“We wanted to go to the pool but my mom’s too tired.”  Spit. Spit.

He’s out of cherries. The cherries he had a whole fistful of and didn’t offer me a single one. Neal is doughy and heartless and doesn’t understand the rule of sharing, because if you have a fistful of cherries it’s not okay to just plow through them like a beaver and never say, “Want one?”

Neal sighs, still bored, and looks down at his empty hands. “Gonna get some more,” he says, and leaves me on the pavement, straddling my tricycle.

I think about watching Neal eat more cherries and I’m pretty sure I can’t do that.  I get off the tricycle, eyes burning, and walk it back to the garage.

When I enter the kitchen, Mama’s off the phone, pulling loaves of bread out of the oven.

She startles at the slam of the door, puts the bread on the counter, and still wearing her oven mitt, hunkers down to see.

When she’s done seeing, she gives me a pat on the head and returns to the hot pans of bread. The bread she makes from scratch because we’re on a budget.  She lifts one of the pans, tells me to sit still, and walks across the street in her apron and oven mitt.

She returns a few minutes later, with a coffee cup filled with cherries and tells me to go on, go on to the porch outside.

I close my eyes, feel the juice running clean and sweet down my gullet. I spit the seed out, far as I can.   Even farther than Neal.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica@PLRH July 21, 2011 at 6:21 am

Your Mom Rocks!

Cherries are still a treat to me too and always remind me of childhood summertime. We were on a bud-get too (damn those 70s). Looking back I can now see that cherries really were a big treat!


Carrie July 21, 2011 at 6:32 am

what a nice mom! and what a nice neighbor to share :)


Diane@BeStillaMinute July 21, 2011 at 6:38 am

So glad you finally got to taste those cherries. You’re an amazing storyteller!


MKCountryman July 21, 2011 at 6:42 am

What beautiful writing! I clicked over from Pam. I will check out more here. And your writing workshop!
Your details are amazing. I feel like I was there.


Nobody July 21, 2011 at 7:04 am

cherries are ALWAYS worth crying for. i love your writing style. :)


Suzi Q July 21, 2011 at 7:27 am

Cherries are my favourite! And they’re always expensive hey? But so worth it!


Mimzy Wimzy July 21, 2011 at 7:42 am

Loved this. Now I want to go buy some cherries and find a little girl to give them to!!
{Here from MamaKat}


bryan July 21, 2011 at 8:48 am

Great! I love it.


Jenna July 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

Great story. You capture that longing feeling that I remember from childhood when the things you wanted the most desperately seemed (and sometimes were) so unattainable.


TKW July 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm


I’m glad you got the jealousy. Budget food sucks.


SuziCate July 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

great story…cheeries are always fabulous, when you are the one eating them!


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts July 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

How you remember these things is beyond me. So much of my child feels like Vegas – it stayed there. I love traveling back in time with you. And I know just what you mean about the simple pleasure of a fistfull of cherries.


TKW July 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm


Laughing about “Vegas”–honestly, if Mama didn’t have such a good memory, a lot of these stories would have been Vegas-ed.

I wish you’d lived on my block back then. I know you would’ve shared your cherries.


Biz July 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

Your writing is so vivid KW – I can picture myself standing next to you eyeing the cherries!


Camille Brightsmith July 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

I love that your Mom actually ‘saw”. Thank goodness. I think I need to ‘see’ more as a mom.

My favorite simple pleasure is the feel of sleeping in the same bed with my kids. We don’t do it often, and I don’t ‘sleep’ much, but expecially on a cold night there is nothing like falling asleep together over a book, then waking up a few hours later with them sprawled all over me and just feeling the peace and trust there with us all together, safe and cozy.


TKW July 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm


I think you “see” just fine. And sleeping with Max and Chloe? Heaven. It must be.


SUPAHMAMA July 21, 2011 at 11:31 am

Thanks so much for sharing! We’re cherry lovin fools in this house as well. So much so, that I picked up an OXO pitter a few summers back. My son would eat them all, one by one as I pit them if he were allowed in the kitchen with me while I did it. I say, screw the budget. There’s always room for cherries. :)

Here from Mama Kat.


Stacia July 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Cooked carrots are evil. But red cherries? Bliss.


Contemporary Troubadour July 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Alas, we’re definitely on a bud-get these days so cherries make rare appearances here! But when they do, they’re like miniature presents, each one. We are in the thick of Rainier season at the moment — roadside stands abound.

I’m with Camille — I love that your mama saw. And from what I’ve read here, you do too, for your girls :)


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm

CT: Just the words “Rainier Season” fill me with envy. Sweetest things ever.


Jane July 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I love living vicariously through your childhood memories. Your writing is pure delight. You have the relationship with your mom that I wish I could have had with my own.


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm


I pity your mom. She really missed out on a wonderful opportunity. xo


Heather July 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I was totally sneering at Neal with each luscious cherry that boy popped in his nasty little mouth! You painted an amazingly vivid picture.
You will give me nightmares with the pot roast reference. We too were on a budget and my grandparents owned a cattle farm. We ate pot roast EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY. Mom put it in the oven before we went to church and it was ready for the eating when we got home. My nemesis was not cooked carrots however. No, I cringed at the thought of the cooked cabbage mom added to make it go further. Oh how that slimy texture makes my skin crawl!


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm


Cooked cabbage? Argh! That’s even worse than carrots! We should pool our cooked veggie hatred and declare world domination.


pamela July 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I hope to god you are writing a book because I will go out and buy it. This is marvelous!


TKW July 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm


Back atcha.


Cheryl @ Mommypants July 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I love this, and I love how your memory recalls this. I have a tough time adding many details when I write about childhood stuff because I just don’t remember it. Certainly not conversations my mother had at the store, or ones w/ other kids.

I guess they were right about smoking pot.. ;)


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm


Pot, shmot. Who cares if you don’t remember it all? Just write it the way you remember seeing it, or if you don’t remember, the way you think you would. I am lucky to have a mother with whip-sharp recall, and believe me, if I didn’t have her, things would be fuzz. But even so, I still slant it my way. ;)


Sandra July 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Your post reads like a Fanny Flagg novel! I loved this!


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm


I love Flagg–the whole business about the Red Ryder BB Gun. Bliss. Thank you for making my day.


Privilege of Parenting July 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Lovely… deepening my appreciation for both cherries and your writing—as well your intrepid and honest voice and spirit.


TKW July 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm


I love you, man! (reals)


Jennifer July 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

I only know your mom through your stories, but you tell them so well I just love her. It is a gift to have a good momma. We’re both pretty lucky.


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm


She kicks ass. Lucky, indeed.


Tori Nelson July 22, 2011 at 7:47 am

Simple, classic and wonderful. I love this post!


Maria July 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

What a gift to have a “seeing” mom…And nothing in the world tastes sweeter tahn something that has been wanted for all the right reasons…What a vivid memory!


TKW July 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm


It’s vivid because that Neal wasn’t worth a shit. :)


Barbara July 23, 2011 at 8:11 am

Clever mother!
Neal was a creep.


The Curious Cat July 23, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hey, just catching up – still a few more posts to read! Enjoyed the last few entries and that salad looks yum! (Esp compared to the canteen food I’m getting here!) Hope your daughter is out of the wars soon too! Will be in touch more hopefully towards the end of the summer when I have more time and better internet connection! xxx


Not a Perfect Mom July 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

you are a wonderful writer! with an amazing memory…for sure…
and I love the pic of your kid? in the pot…


Rudri Bhatt Patel July 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Goodness. Pure goodnesss.


Kevin (BBQ Smoker Site) July 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm

We just got Rainier in our stores here in FL, and I eat them by the box full!


faemom July 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

That is a lovely story. I hated being poor as a kid too. And as an adult. And I love cherries. My parents buy them at Costco and I totally mooch off of theirs. :-)


From Belgium July 25, 2011 at 4:16 am

Ugh, I just finished our budget. And yes, I hate it too…


Kelly July 27, 2011 at 7:09 am

Your writing is stunning, as usual. I don’t remember even tasting a fresh cherry until I was teen. I didn’t think I liked cherries because the only way I’d had them was as pie filling, which was too sweet for my tastes. Your details and sharp writing made me connect with your story, though. Brava!


Justine July 27, 2011 at 8:22 am

Love your blast-from-the-past stories. You’re such a wonderful storyteller!

As for cherries, I would be drooling too. I’ve always hated cherry flavored anything because often it doesn’t do the real fruit justice. I didn’t know what the real thing tasted like until I came here to the States and since then, I can’t imagine my life without it. Lucky me, it’s cherry season now. YAY!!!


island traveler July 28, 2011 at 1:01 am

Your mom is wise. She reminds me of my wife when we do our groceries. I’m the impulsive type particularly when I’m hungry. I would grab the nearest cookie that catches my eye but she would remind me that we’re on budget. I would place them back feeling poor and helpless with a pouting lips to boot. The same reaction my 5 -year old does when I ask him to return a toy he likes. But we are all facing a hard economic time. The lessons we learn from our moms , or our wives will prove invaluable. Love the post!


Velva July 28, 2011 at 5:40 am

Your post makes me think of the cherry trees we experienced last summer (for the first time) I was just standing under the trees as they hung over the fence. I could not stop eating them-it was like crack.

Love your post. Always, makes me smile.



Tiffany July 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

My God, woman, you have an amazing memory. I thought I did but yours is amazing. Love this story. P.S. Was the 5th time a charm??


carly July 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Fantastic story. I absolutely love cherries! When I was a kid, I used to hang them over my ears like earrings. :)


TKW July 30, 2011 at 7:49 am


Of course you did! What else would you do with them? :)


rebecca @ altared spaces July 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

I remember being at my friend’s house when they opened a new carton of milk. I shopped her as she started to pour it on her cereal, “Don’t we need to pour half out first?” What for? she inquired. That’s when I realized not everyone put 1/2 powdered milk into their cartons to make it go further.

Cherries were the Christmas of my childhood summers. I still treat them like gold.


siberian husky July 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

salutations from across the ocean. Great article I shall return for more.


Zebra Zoologist July 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm

nice page you should write a weekly newsletter :)


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: