Mystic Olallieberries -Reposted

Through the fruits of our labors we strive to become part of a big life narrative.  It is the productive goal of our endeavors. It is the juicy, seductive, and gratifying result of our work, and once in a while fruit becomes mystic, etched to memory, becoming myth in our personal histories. Our stories of fruit become part of who we are, and sprinkle our minds with sugarplums and … olallieberries dancing in our head?

When I was younger, I used to spend much of my summer vacation at the beach. Just over the hill from Santa Clara county, past highway 17 and down highway 1 my family shared a retreat from suburbia and the bustle of the Bay Area.  Just down the road from a small beach town, my family, with my aunts and uncles had a house a block from the renowned sands of the Monterrey bay.

For weeks at a time, my siblings and I, and several of our friends used to waste our days entertaining ourselves in the surf, playing games, walking to the local store in town, and eating way too much candy. Of course all of these fun activities bled into each other and fed on each other, until we exhausted all the daylight and energy we could squeeze out of the day.

It was on our trips to the local store to restock our candy stashes that I remember my adventures of youth. I also remember a fruit, the olallieberry. This fruit is a legend in my mind. The mere hint at this berry throws me back into vivid dreams of my childhood and one perfect childhood morning I had. These fruit are special to me because of the discovery and adventure they represent. I had not known the olallieberry even existed before I had come upon them on that misty country day.

My friend and I had walked a little over 3 miles to a KOA instead of our typical, closer destination, the store in town.  KOA stood for Kamp grounds Of America and were a chain of developed, almost village-like campgrounds in the middle of rural areas and near various parks. They usually have swimming pools and parking lots and tennis courts, and little stores filled to the brim with candy; lots of candy. On the way back from our candy run, we stumbled upon something out of the past, something special, and perfect.

We discovered a roadside fruit stand. It was rustic, small and quite literally a stand. There was no one there to sell anything. The little wooden structure was only big enough for a few dozen packs of berries and a little cash box to leave some money. On each part of the display above the three different types of berries was a little hand painted white sign that simply listed the name of the fruit and the price. There were blackberries, and raspberries, and something new, and never before heard of, “Olallieberries.”

Later I came to realize that they were just a cross of blackberries and raspberries, but at that moment they were new, delicious, shiny, and alluring. Of course they were also cheap; cheap enough to buy a few packs with the change we had left over from our candy buying spree. We plunked down our change and walked into the stand looking under this and that, only to re-up our fixation on the fruit, eating one hand full of the olallieberries after another. My friend was a little too stricken with these perfect beauties and claimed a 5 finger discount on a couple packs for the road. I was glad he made that decision, though. The berries were difficult to leave behind.

All in all, we had 3 or 4 packs each by the time we got home, and boy did we pay for it in the Lou that night.  It was all worth it. The next day, we went back to bring some home for the others, who had at that point heard the stories of the mystic berries about a hundred times. Again, we ate 3 or 4 packs by the time we returned home and again we felt the berries wrath. This time, at least, we were able to return with enough for everyone else to try. I don’t think anyone else really understood the meaning of the olallieberries like we did. To everyone else they were sweat berries and a tasty treat, but not candy. They didn’t see them as an adventurer’s prize, or a brilliant piece of nature’s bounty like my friend and I saw them.

We had discovered a perfect moment where for an instant the world was vibrant with smells and tastes down every road, and awaiting discovery. We had visited a time and place that didn’t exist in our lives. We visited a time that hadn’t really ever existed. We found mystic fruits that could only live in our memories on that slightly overcast cool summer-at-the-beach day of my youth.

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