Entrepreneurship, and where the hell have I been since May (series part 1)


entrepreneur: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise

The summer before fifth grade, I started a small business picking blackberries and selling them to the neighbors on our cul-de-sac for $0.25/pint. The berries grew wild (I did not know the word “invasive” yet) on the undeveloped property adjacent to the brand-new subdivision my dad was building, where we lived in an enormous house with a swimming pool. I had no clue what a bargain the neighbors were getting. Word spread quickly, and business boomed.

My mom would let me go pick alone as long as I would take our dog, Heidi, a Belgian Tervuren (bred for protecting sheep) with me. Heidi came to us as a former stray, already named, found by some customers of my mom’s dollhouse store, after my mom told them how our house had been broken into. Heidi was huge – she looked like a cross between a wolf and a bear, but was, as many large dogs are, completely tolerant and docile with her people. Along with chaperoning my blackberry picking expeditions, Heidi also let my sister and I dress her up in hats, tube socks, and moon boots (remember those?), and pulled us on our roller skates on the Promenade at Seaside. Once Heidi caught on that blackberries were our commodity – and delicious – she learned to pull her lips back carefully in order to not get poked, and would eat the low ones directly off the vine. My mom believed, probably correctly so, that nobody would bother me as long as Heidi was close. I remember her telling me, though, “If anyone comes after you, run into the blackberry bushes. You are smaller and they won’t follow you in there. Don’t worry about Heidi. She can take care of herself.” Nobody ever bothered us, thankfully. 

As business increased, I developed a system for picking efficiently. I would drag a sheet of plywood into the brambles to make an even surface for the 6-foot stepladder I would carry in, as well as a level place to keep the flats of berries from spilling. I wore old tennis shoes, jeans, and long-sleeved woven shirts to avoid being scratched, and tied buckets to my belt loops with rope so that I could pick with both hands. I wore my swimsuit under my clothes so that when I went home (which was usually only after it got too dark to pick), I could strip down and hop into the pool. The chlorine bleached away the stains on my fingers, and swimming around usually got rid of all of the little stickers in my skin, the kind you can feel but not see.

Despite the trauma, my childhood was, in so many ways, perfect. 

I loved picking blackberries. Yes, I did it obsessively, because, well, that is how I go about things. There were always more than I could pick, and the best ones seemed to always be dangling in whole clusters just out of reach. I loved how they smelled, earthy, warm, and sweet.  I loved how my fingers recognized the “give” of the most perfectly ripe ones as they would release into my hand. I got used to the spiders and bees that also love blackberries. I loved filling the pint containers from my belt loop buckets. At home, my mom always gave me free reign of the kitchen whenever I wanted, and I loved making tiny pies in those little aluminum pie pans. My mom used to hang loads of berries in cheesecloth, which she would suspend between two lawn chairs with a large bowl underneath, outside on our pool deck, in order to collect the juice to make blackberry jelly especially for me, because I did not like jam with seeds. 

When I’d close my eyes at night, I would see berries.

When I smell them now, I remember all of this.

Well, that summer when I was ten, I picked so many blackberries that I developed tendonitis in my wrists. My mom took me to the Urgent Care clinic that was close to our house, where I was given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory of some kind and told not to pick for two weeks. By the time I left the office, I had orders from the nurse and the receptionist for a full-flat each, which I picked and delivered as soon as the two weeks were over.

I’ve missed you. I’ve been missing me, too.

I am aware I haven’t published a new post since the end of May, and no, this does not mean I ran away with the homeless guy who made me laugh on my walk to the courthouse, although wouldn’t THAT be a great story? “You didn’t kill me, so I should probably elope with you” is **old** Nicole thinking. (See?? The affirmations are starting to kick in.)

The bad news is I have been in a funk. Or maybe more of a dither. And by “funk” and “dither” (btw “Funk & Dither” would be an excellent name for a law firm), I mean I have been in a cycle of extraordinary worry and despair that has made it difficult to concentrate on many things, especially writing.

I am rebounding, though, or at least finally coming up for air.

I have so much to tell you.

Over the next several posts, let me give you a bit of context about the buildup to this emotional crash that happened to me recently (and fine we can call it “crippling depression and anxiety” instead of “funk and dither” if you want to get technical – I say “tomato,” you say “mental illness”), and then I will be able to share some of the the weird and funny parts of what has been happening lately, too.

There are many.

It is lovely to see you again.


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