I believe in mulberries. The sweet, juicy orbs that spill red wine down your chin, along your lips and the underside of your nose. Shakespeare’s birthplace felt like home as I held a mulberry in my hand for an hour, waiting patiently to find a drinking fountain and rinse it off. It lovingly stained my hand with red and purple sores until my skin looked raw and defenseless.
At home in upstate New York, I didn’t need to wait to rinse the mulberries off. I didn’t have to wait or go through such measures before giving in to my cravings. It was never hot and humid outside, and I never had to walk long before I could get my fill of the sweet fruit. I never had to walk through cemeteries, fields of sculptures, and chapels with a swelling, bleeding orb cradled in the palm of my hand. My hand didn’t seem to mind it though—it seemed to miss having the threat of being permanently stained. My face did miss looking bruised because I was in company, so social regulations and customs ordered me to retain some amount of composure when eating the fruit. I found keeping the necessary restraint nearly impossible in the presence of a particle of my past life. That fruit, or rather that tree—or rather, the shade of that tree—was a fragment of cool summer breezes to me, of deer standing on our back porch when I wasn’t there, even of light that filtered through a translucent curtain into my room.
Believing in mulberries also means that I believe in long, tall grass with bushy tails on top and walking in moist, sour-smelling mulch among the rocks to spy on an invisible world: white stringy spider nests cradled by the lanky, translucent stalks. The smell of Shakespeare’s crunchy lawn was different—it smelt of dry, thick grass instead of fresh, thin grass without the stinging and edgy smell of being cut. Even walking through the humid cemeteries, I could almost feel the grass under my feet that had once sent out an inviting and dew-caressed aroma. How could I have forgotten old childhood innocence and curiosity? I believed in pulling the swollen fruit off the stem even when I knew that the deer would eventually get most of the fruit from the bottom branches and birds would have the top branches all to themselves. I believed in not wondering if the fruit was dirty if I found dozens of purple drops lying in the grass, some of the inky dye soaking the transparent, sweet grass.
I believe that I must carry what it feels like to be a child everywhere I go. These memories make new places seem more familiar, and create an imaginary safe haven in times of need where I can pick the mulberries from a taught branch and lick the sweet bruises from my hand. I had never known that giving up my sense of childhood curiosity would also mean giving up my happiness, but these fruits give me a connection to a different time and place and the happiness that came with it.