Well, after looking at too many colleges, Filibuster has finally whittled her list down to about six schools. But this afternoon, oh, around three o’clock, once the mailman pulls to the curb, that list’ll be shot to hell. Because as soon as she hears the mail truck pulling up to the curb, her ears will perk up. And as soon as the mailbox is shut with a little clink, she’ll be out the door.
Oh those college brochures. Those colorful brochures that promise success and internships and glory to their graduates. Those brochures that make kids—parents too—feel so important and special. They mention famous people with pretty smiles who’ve made Much of their lives. Honors colleges and double majors and study abroad programs so exciting.
And all of this, of course, goes back to the strawberry patch where I am most at home.
It’s a free-for-all, our strawberry patch. No one tells us which row to pick. No one marks off the picked rows with little red flags. Without direction, we head up and grab whatever row looks promising. But what happens is this: With no one to put the brakes on me, I’m always looking one row over. I start off contentedly enough, picking and enjoying the sound of the tractor in the fields. The whistle of the train causes me to look up. And there, one row over, I see this gorgeous berry.
Of course, I must have it.
I stand and tramp across the row and pick the berry and…oh, it’s been bitten. Never mind. I drop it. Over there. Another berry, bigger than the last, I’m sure. I tramp over and I find that it’s rotten. But just there…there’s a beautiful berry. I cross again and pick it and find it is truly perfect. And then I turn around to head back and find that I’ve lost my row and my basket, too and I look like a complete idiot standing in the middle of the patch with one giant strawberry and nothing to put it in.
Stay with your choice, I want to tell Filibuster, but what I mean is this: Stay in your row.
Because when I stay in my row, I find all that I need. I find unripe berries, to be sure. I find rotten berries. I find half-eaten berries, berries smashed by people tramping through the patch. I find small berries and I find big berries and I find that when I close my eyes I cannot taste a difference between the two. And occasionally, if I stay in my row, I’ll find tucked beneath a leaf, an immense strawberry; a strawberry of such a dark red that it begs to be eaten the moment I pluck it from the vine.
“Mom,” Filibuster will say, putting a pretty brochure before me, tempting and glossy and fine. “Could we…”
I will put the brakes on Filibuster. Because those brochures? They forget to mention the debt.