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Welcome to the Wildwood, a magical forest where anything can happen. Take a soft deep breath in through your nose, and slowly let it go out your mouth. Let’s do that again. Take a deep breath in, and slowly let it go. Feel your heart slow down. You can close your eyes if you want, and use your mind’s eye to picture your adventure. Do you see the trees, towering tall over head? Can you hear the soft rustle of the leaves as the wind tickles their branches. Do you hear the birds chirping and the soft babble of a nearby creek?
You open your eyes and find yourself near a large garden. Towering sunflowers the edge of the garden to your left. They must be twice as tall as you are, and their faces are turned toward the sun. It is a beautiful summer day, and your bare arms delight in the warmth of the suns rays. As you smile at the cheery sunflowers you hear a shout greeting you hello. It is Addie and her brother George. “Today is harvest day!” She says smiling. “Well, the FIRST harvest day.”
“Yeah, the cherry tomatoes are finally ready,” George with a full mouth as he shows you a handful of yellow cherry tomatoes. His sandy blond hair shines in the sun. His beagle, Ace comes and greets you with happy whines and licks to your hands. You squat down to greet him with pets and belly rubs. His fur is spotted in some places, and covered in large patches of brown and black, most notably a large dot of brown at the top of his head in almost a perfect oval. His fun is sun warmed and his breath stinky you notice as he licks your face and you laugh.
“Would you like to help us? Mama’s promised sundaes when we’re done, and I know she’ll send you home with lots of goodies too!”
“I’d love to help,” you say. Addie hands you a basket and smiles. It’s a round wicker basket with a braided handle for easy carrying. The handle is smooth in your hands. She also hands you a big floppy hat made of straw. “This is to keep the sun off you”. You put the hat on your head and it’s a little bit big for you, but the shade feels nice.
“Great! We’re in charge of tomatoes today.” Addie takes your free hand and leads you through waist high green bean plants, crawling vines of summer squash and zucchini. You remember how prickly the squash plants can be. Metal towers in cone shapes line one row where cucumbers are starting to climb them. Near the far edge of the garden is a long row of cherry tomatoes in all kinds of colors, red, yellow, orange and purple. Some grow in long strips on the plants, tomatoes lining either side of a long branch, others in bunches. Straw covers the dirt under the plants. Addie shows you how to pick the ripe ones (or almost ripe ones) and when to leave them on the vine. “If it doesn’t come off easily, it’s definitely not ready,” She grins. She hands you a yellow one to try. You pop it in your mouth and as you bite, the sweet-tart juices fill your mouth (and little bit spills out it’s so juicy). You giggle as you wipe the juice off your chin. Warmed just a little bit by the sun, it’s one of the best tomatoes you’ve ever had.
You hear a giggle and turn- George is holding out his hand, filled with deep brown dirt and the biggest wiggling worm you’ve ever seen. You grin and hold out your hand. George carefully tips the worm into your outstretched hand and the worm wiggles against your skin. The worm’s texture is sticky and rough. You place the worm under the tomato plant and it squirms away, finding some straw to bury itself under and keep cool.
As you pick tomatoes, George entertains you with silly jokes. “Have you heard the one about tomato that was riding a motorcycle? He was trying to KETCHUP with his friends!” He giggles and you do too. George tells you joke after joke until the ripe tomatoes are all off the vines and in your baskets.
“Well done everyone! Time to go inside, cool off and get sundaes!” Addie and George’s mom smiles and grabs your basket. You help Addie carry hers and you follow them into the big white farm house.
The kitchen is warm with the summer sun. Open windows bring in a soft breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass. You remove your shoes inside the door and place them Addie and George’s shoes on a black rubber mat. As you cross the darkly stained hardwood floor, your toes enjoy the warmth of the floor where the sun has been hitting it this morning. Addie’s mom motions for you to join them at the kitchen table. It’s a long rectangle made from four wide wood boards. The surface is rough in texture, but has been smoothed with years of use and love. A placemat is set before you, and then a dish of vanilla ice cream. Addie’s mom brings over all the toppings- chocolate and caramel sauces, rainbow sprinkles, bright red cherries and whipped cream, and she helps you build the perfect sundae with your favorite toppings. The sweet coolness is the perfect ending to a warm, sunny afternoon. You leave a little while later with a full belly, a smile and a basket of tomatoes.