Bertha wandered, but not aimlessly, along the lake shore. She had a sharp eye and was looking for particular treasures: pebbles and small rocks that had unusual colors or shapes. First, they had to catch her eye – and then they had to keep it. Sometimes, she found polished, softened glass to add to the mix. She was looking for mitre shells, as well.
Eventually, she would carefully arrange it in the V’lassic pickle jar she had washed thoroughly and then lowered into boiling water to purify. When she was done, she would add water from Lake Erie and then voila! A going away present that would hopefully anchor her young friend firmly to the ground even as the girl fled across the country.
Bertha knew what it meant to get small tokens of fond regard made from the most welcoming parts of the world. She took many happy rambles along Lake Erie’s shoreline in all seasons of the year, and remembered the girl’s delight in the frozen winter months.
The snow plows pushed all the snow out onto the banks of the lake – where else would they heap all that wet, heavy snow? – and as the mounds grew and melted and became part of the lake, they created a bit of winter wonderland. Folks wandering along the edges and venturing out a bit farther were treated to miniature cliffs and mountains, trickles of water streaming over the piles and curling quietly into still ponds, and the sparkle captured in a thousand pinpoints of frozen light.
It was late spring now, and soon the heat and dampness would soar. Summertime in upstate New York meant – for Bertha, at least – that such rambles were feasible only in the pre-dawn stillness when a lone bird song grew into a cacophony of hundreds of birds, or late at night as the full moon was lifted into the sky by the cricket and frog song thrumming beneath its’ globe.
Bertha had hoped to show her young friend the mystery and beauty of the lake during those times, and was a bit saddened by the suddenness of the girl’s decision to pack up as much of her belongings as possible and go clear across the country.
On the other hand, she understood the young woman’s need to be with family she had not been close to since being a little girl. It was flight to, and a flight from, and a venturing into a freedom as well bondage, all wrapped up in one confused, angry, sad bundle of life.
Bertha remembered being in a similar place so many years ago – and still had the grounding gift an older woman had given to her as she made her life choices and transitions. She hoped the Vlassic pickle jar would give the young woman a concrete and very real reminder that she was precious, and worthy, and loved.
Smiling up into the sun, Bertha felt the wind ripple through her hair and linger on her eyelashes, and she drew in a deep breath all the way down to her toes and let it slowly out. Looking down, she spotted a ripple of green and white, palm-sized stone – the crowning glory for the homemade package of love she would send across the country with her young friend.