Strawberries

I was rinsing Cormack strawberries the other day, sun streaming onto them through the kitchen window, and something about them, and the forest-coloured enamel colander they lay in, sent me back more than half my lifetime ago to a July afternoon in Finland.

We were with reverent crowds at the Pori Jazz festival, the thin northern sun that I next saw here in Woody Point sifting into dark stands of trees near a stage designed to look like a swooping gull. There was that dreamy music-festival feeling of walking through the music itself (Max Roach, Bobby McFerrin, Herbie Hancock...) 

Little red rounds caught my eye. Perhaps there were only three or four, but in my memory beautiful babies in tasseled red hats were everywhere, peeping out of baby carriers wrapped onto their parents' chests.

I want to do this, I thought. It was as though I had never seen a baby before.

Some time later I was well on my way, lumbering and pleasantly achy in the way of late pregnancy, thinking slow, soft-edged thoughts. I was looking through a shop selling baby things in Toronto's (prettily-named) Summerhill neighbourhood. It was open late; I must have just finished up a longish day shift downtown in the newsroom.

I was an upright page, unturned.

And there on a stand was a tiny, tasseled red hat. I checked the label. Unmistakably Finnish -- abundant vowels and percussive consonants.

It meant that the page half-turned; I could read a glimpse. I would feel the baby's warmth through the crown of the hat that I held in my hand, and I could imagine that warmth just below my chin. Resting against me, the baby would precede me, bright as a berry.

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