Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry Picking on Blue Ridge Mountain

Memorial Day weekend with my sister and her family in Fairfax County, Virginia. My parents have been staying with her for about a month now, and they were glad to see me. Not that we have very much to say to each other, but the visual contact was necessary. My dad is not able to walk about much now; he feels tired and breathless easily. He plays with his granddaughters but nothing strenuous like kicking a ball around or chasing them. Last night he sat for a while watching Barney with Hannah. My mother is somewhat stronger. She worries about her hair showing white under its henna dye. I understand better now what Rushdie says in Midnight's Children about characters coming to an end when they have run out of stories and energy. My parents have poured their lives into me and my sister, and now they have nothing left for themselves. I see my sister and brother-in-law doing the same for Hannah and Liesel, and doing it with such love and dedication. It is horrifying.

Yesterday we went strawberry picking on Blue Ridge Mountain. The farm was like an advertisement for itself, for the rural life. Children were entertained by the giant trampoline since they could not be expected to be entertained by the simple pleasures of feeding the chickens. Even babies got their Diaper Derby. This sounds more disaffected than I actually felt when I was pressing back the tangle of strawberry runners to find the biggest fruits. I wanted to take off my shirt to feel the brilliant sunshine, but I was too self-conscious to do so. There was a lot of discussion among the Singaporean families whether it was safe to eat the strawberries without washing them first. The adults tasted them tentatively, and wiped the fruits on paper towel before handing them to the kids. On the wagon back to the farmhouse, a Virginian mother forbade her young son from sitting on the step of the swaying carriage.

Lunch at a fried chicken restaurant. The chef came out to take our orders, a huge hearty man who looked like he was destined to be a chef. Two families are returning to Singapore very soon. Others will replace them when they come to work at the HQ of Exxon Mobile. A wife remarked that she will miss the freedom of American life. They are all thinking about how to adapt to Singapore again. Could their children cope with learning Chinese in school? I think they have never stopped being Singaporean. I too am damned.

We drove back to the Bluemont Vineyard for wine-tasting. It perched on a hillside, and gave a great view of the rolling hills. They were blue as reputed. The green gentleness of the fields reminded me of England. The woman dispensing the wines for tasting was busy and brusque, and so I did not want to ask her too many questions. I liked the vineyard's Vidal Blanc. It was citrusy and refreshing. It had the taste of something grown for a long time locally.

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