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A single strawberry speaks volumes

Updated: Aug 6, 2023



Lessons from Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI—The strawberry to me has always been a symbol of love, friendship, goodness, and of course, deliciousness.

Growing up in Holly, Michigan, my parents always had plenty of strawberries during the brief growing season, which falls in June and July.

When the berries were available locally, we would have strawberries almost every day. My mother would often bake biscuits and then mash the berries to put over the biscuits along with whipped cream. She had one of those special berry mashers that I held onto for years after her death.


During the time the local berries were in season, my father would always have mashed berries with Grape Nuts cereal and milk before going to bed. This is a tradition that I have continued to this day.


Most places I've lived have had fresh strawberries.


During my 15 years in the metro-D.C. region, the Amish markets would always have beautiful and delicious strawberries that were grown on their farms in Pennsylvania.


When I lived in Franklinton, Louisiana, I would cherish my trips to East Jefferson Medical Center in Metairie during the months of February, March and April, as there were always roadside stands north of the causeway with berries from famous Ponchatoula, which grows one of the best berries I've ever had.


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In Maine, the season for strawberries doesn't start until mid-June in the southern part of the state. During the summer, once the southern berries are gone, berries from the northern parts of the state ripen, and then toward the end of the summer, fresh berries arrive from Canada.


In Cape Elizabeth, near Portland, there is a grower called Maxwell’s Farm that has beautiful, delicious berries for sale and self-pick options. Their berries are quite famous, and some local ice cream shops offer the berries with soft serve ice cream with a special "Maxwell's Strawberry" flavor.


On Guam, the climate is not conducive to growing strawberries, so berries are flown in from California and South Korea.


I was always amazed and thankful for the expertise of Guam’s PayLess grocery stores, where fresh strawberries are available. I came to really love the berries coming from South Korea, as they had a unique narrower shape, and a wonderful flavor.


As a kid in Holly, my parents wouldn't allow us to have sodas very often. However, on special occasions we were allowed to enjoy soda pop, like when we went to play putt putt golf. My favorite was always strawberry-flavored Faygo Redpop, which was invented by a pair of Russian immigrant bakers from Detroit in 1907.


To this day wherever I have a strawberry soda, I'm thinking of fresh strawberries and my mind is transfixed to a happy time, free of stress and full of fun times as a child, allowing me to experience the euphoric benefits of fresh strawberries, but just from a soda pop.


The 2023 strawberries in Berrien County, Michigan have been phenomenal. I have never had a more delicious berry than these SW Michigan beauties this year. According to the owner of Jasper's Farm Stand in Stevensville, the dry spell through May and much of June contributed to the great flavor of the berries this year; too much water on them diminishes the flavor.


My wife Sharon and I live in a senior living complex in Bridgman, MI. The apartment building has a wonderful dining room where we eat our meals. The staff that prepares our food and keeps our building running smoothly provide exceptional service. To let the staff know how much we appreciate them, Sharon and I passed some just-picked strawberries out to the wonderful team at Dockerty Health Care Services.


Sharon has dementia, and every day she loses just a little more of her memory. The drip-drip of this disease causes her to not remember many of the people we meet.


Two things seem to circumvent the dreaded disease with her: The Beatles’ songs (Sharon has been a devoted fan since she was a teenager) and smiles from certain people who make a connection with her in a real, positive way.


When fellow residents Shirley or Joy connect with Sharon via a smile in the dining hall, Sharon lights up like a child. Even though they sit at different ends of the dining room from us, when Sharon makes eye contact with them and they smile at her, it makes Sharon feel as though she's on top of the world. I wanted to let Shirley, Joy, Elaine, Marty, Dave and Peggy, Terry, Elizabeth, and others know that we appreciate their friendship and love.


So, one day when we received some of the best berries of the season from Jasper's Farm Stand in Stevensville, we walked to each of our friends in the dining room who are so special to Sharon, and gave each of them a ripe, juicy, strawberry.


Without saying a word, the message of our appreciation for the love and friendship that they demonstrate to Sharon was conveyed explicitly through a strawberry. Without having to give any explanation whatsoever, a single strawberry spoke volumes.


Besides a smile, the other thing that lights Sharon up, and temporarily puts her dementia aside, is listening to The Beatles. Whenever we're in the car, we have the Beatles Channel on. She has several favorite songs, and one of them is "Strawberry Fields Forever."


When we get to heaven, I'm sure I won't need any Redpop, as there will be a strawberry field forever, and we will enjoy beautiful, delicious strawberries every single day


Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at theodorelewis@yahoo.com.



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