My daughter Zoey’s two-year-old smile spreads wide across her face as I lean over and unbuckle her from her carseat.
“Are you ready for some fun?” I ask.
Her response of a giggle fills the car as I lift her free and blow a raspberry kiss against the high curve of her little cheek. We emerge into the brightness of the day and then stand still for a moment, blinking as our eyes adjust to the hot, overhead sun.
It’s late August, and Zoey and I are in Ohio visiting my parents. For me, this trip has become more of a necessity than a luxury given the fact that everything back home seems to be coming apart at the seams: Life has been hard, love has all but faded, and my heart has become a veritable wasteland.
I had miraculously managed to stay relatively strong in spite of the circumstances, but after we boarded the plane and began our trip back East, exhaustion finally swept over me.
When we finally met my parents at baggage claim, I’d barely been able to hand Zoey to my father before I found respite in my mother’s waiting arms. My tears fell so fast—and finally so freely—that a tiny, saltwater lake created itself in the crevice of her collarbone.
And now here we are, a few days later: While I’m no longer in my mother’s arms, I’m standing next to her as I hold Zoey against my hip, and together we all gaze out across a seemingly endless field of strawberries, ones that are just waiting to be harvested by our hungry hands.
The field is a lush, vibrant green, and although we have yet to step into its rows, I can see flashes of red against the ground. It feels like the complete of opposite of how I’ve been feeling lately: It is overflowing. It is rich and abundant. It is beautifully full of life.
Later, as I help gather berries into our overflowing baskets, I glance at Zoey’s red-stained lips, proof of her ‘pick one, eat one’ protocol. I listen to our laughter float above us and fall into rhythm beside us. I am comforted by my mother’s familiar presence, and Zoey’s happy, little voice filled with its palpable excitement, and slowly, I begin to feel like myself.
I become overwhelmed by the beauty of these moments, moments where I begin to believe that maybe—just maybe—there is hope for my heart to feel full again. I collect the strawberries and these moments eagerly, believing that I will be able to keep their sweetness close.
But then, a few days later, our trip comes to an end. We head back home, and that bubble of hope I have slowly disappears. Because life becomes even harder, love fades away even further, and my heart lapses into the slowest beat it possibly needs to stay alive. Years pass, I lose hope, and the only thing I end up believing is that an abundance of love—or anything, for that matter—will stay flirting just on the outskirts of my reach.
* * *
Twelve hundred miles west and four years later finds me standing on the edge of another strawberry field. My left hand presses against my brow, shielding my face from the early morning heat of another late August sun. My other arm wraps around Zoey’s waist, my hip bearing the brunt of her weight. Her legs dangle down next to my own, and her feet graze the top of my knees. Her head, topped with the hat that had adorned my own earlier, rests warm against my shoulder.
I’ve been talking about doing this for a while, wanting to recreate with her those perfect sun-kissed moments we had experienced years earlier. But more than that, I’ve been wanting to recreate the feelings I had in those Midwestern strawberry patches—the ones that made me believe that something could come back to life, the ones that made me believe that something that was lost could be found again.
“It’s too hot for me to hold you, peanut,” I tell Zoey as I set her down on the dirt patch beside me. “Can you walk?”
Zoey grabs my fingers with hers. “Of course,” she says. “I just wanted a hug.”
In the distance, we see people scattered throughout the field, hunched over small bushes as they forage for their pick of the ripest fruit they can find. These Colorado fields are different than those back in Ohio: dusty and sparse, it’s easy to see each individual strawberry bush, and the field doesn’t appear to be endless. From where I stand, I see brown and faded green, but no red.
I hand Zoey her basket. “The man at the stand said there aren’t that many strawberries out there today,” I tell her. “We probably won’t be able to find enough to make jam.”
“That’s okay,” Zoey says, shrugging it off. “I’m sure we’ll still find some.”
We start our search, but the only berry we find is a slightly under-ripe misshapen one that Zoey stumbles upon in the dirt.
Though I arrived here determined to find enough strawberries to fill a basket, the more we search, the more we keep coming up empty-handed. In this moment I’m reminded that some days life and love—or lack thereof—is still hard. I sit down beside the next bush, feeling slightly defeated.
“Don’t worry. We’ll make jam someday, mommy,” Zoey says, sensing my disappointment. She bends down next to me and picks the berry she found out of the basket. After dusting it off with her fingers, she bites into it, and although it is small, a small streak of juice still manages to trickle down her chin.
“Just not today,” she grins.
“Zoey!” I cry. “That was the only one we had!”
“I know we’ll find another one,” she assures me.
“But how do you know?” I ask. “Other than the one you found, all the other ones we’ve seen aren’t ripe or have been half-eaten by some sort of critter.”
“I don’t know,” Zoey starts saying, and although she takes off running toward the next line of bushes, the warm breeze catches the rest of her words, letting them drift back my way:
“But I’ll still believe.”
* * *
I watch Zoey hop from row to row, her faith guiding her in her quest, and I find myself wondering:
When was it that I stopped believing in love?
When was it that I stopped believing in abundance?
And when was it that I stopped believing that
I deserved either of these things?
My track record of love isn’t the best one. Though I have only a few relationships under my belt, they’ve all failed, each of them playing a part in building up the walls I’ve managed to construct around my heart. It’s been a over a year since my divorce, and in that time, I haven’t entertained any thoughts of finding something new. I haven’t believed that my heart was ready.
But then I wonder something different: What happens if I start believing again?
And then, as if I needed a sign, out of the corner of my eye, I finally spot something. Nestled at the bottom of a bush, I see a perfect, plump, ruby-red heart.
I push back those faded, dusty, green leaves and cradle my fingers around the strawberry. I gently snip it off the bush, trying not to bruise its delicate skin.
Holding this crimson beauty, I feel my own heartbeat pulse around it. I open my fingers and look at it again, remembering the renewal I had felt that day long ago, and I feel something start bubbling up from deep down inside me.
It feels a lot like hope.
It feels a lot like life.
It feels a lot like love.
I stand up quickly, careful not to drop my newfound treasure. “Zoey!” I call out, waving my hand up high while I begin to run toward her. “Look! I found one!”
As I catch up to where she kneels, Zoey turns toward me. The sun casts a golden halo across the crown of her head, and the only thing more blindingly bright I can see is the 100-watt smile affixed to her freckle-kissed face.
When I reach her, Zoey tilts her head up toward me, and her eyes twinkle in the light as her smile spreads wider.
“See?” she says knowingly. “It’s like you always tell me: You just have to be patient.”
* * *
Perhaps my history of love was a season all in itself, one that, in spite of its challenges, still allowed me to harvest one of the most beautiful blessings of all: my daughter, Zoey.
So maybe this long season is ending, or perhaps maybe it isn’t. Either way, I hope that when I’m ready for that next chapter, I’ll be able to move beyond the dark leaves of my past, and when I do, love will be there, just waiting for me. It will be waiting to renew my heart with the abundance it has longed for—and the richness it has been seeking—for way too long.
So right now, I make a promise to myself to start believing again.
Standing here in this strawberry field, I tell myself that, with every fiber of my being, I will believe this to be true: That one day, my heart will be filled with an abundant, overflowing love—one it has been missing and endlessly searching for. That one day, I will discover this love, and it will take root deep inside my soul. Its season will be endless, and finally, its depths will know no end. As I patiently wait for that day to come, I will remember to keep my eyes—and my heart—open to the renewal of hope, of life, and of love:
Because you never know where it may be hidden,
just waiting to be discovered.
Talk to me: Did you ever lose your belief in love? How did you discover it again? And where do you find abundance in your life?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.