Mushroom Picking

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“Aah!” I shriek in my high-pitched, four-year-old voice as my face makes contact with a large, soft, and silk-like spider web.
“Oh, pipe down,” my mom responds, gently scraping the spider web off my frightened face. “It’s just a silly spider web. There’s nothing to scream about.”
I sniff my nose unhappily, “Easy for you to say. A spider web hasn’t just tried to eat your face.” My dad chuckles, and crouches down in front of me. Even stooping he is a head taller then me.
“Here,” he says, handing me a shiny, white, plastic knife. “Your very own mushroom knife. Now you can cut mushrooms that you find just like your mother and I.”
Nothing gets rid of a bad mood like a grown-up present. I grab the gift with delight, thank my mother and father, and begin to examine the knife, running my fingers curiously across the harmless blade. The knife is smooth and cold, the blades little bumps, not sharp enough to cut skin but able to cut the stem of a plump, fat mushroom.
“Well, come-on. We’d better get a move on, or all the mushrooms will be gone. Everyone, keep your eyes open. Look for those mushrooms.”, my mom says, and we continue to walk through the forest, my dad in front, my mom and I behind, holding each other’s warm, soft hands. We walk silently, listening to our feet crunching on the crisp leaves and hard pebbles, and the chirping of different forest birds greeting the rising sun.
I look as hard as I can, peering behind huge trees whose leaves stretched like a canopy over the sky, checking under prickly bushes with berries I’m not allowed to eat, and running in front of anyone who looks as if they had just spotted a mushroom. I really want to be the first to find a mushroom, and can’t wait to use my new knife for the first time, cutting the stem just above the ground like I had often seen my mom and dad do.
Then, just as I’m about to complain about the lack of mushrooms in this forest, I spot it. It’s a beauty, and a good sort too, I can tell. It has a plump, velvety cap, and a warm, delicate, and fat stem. It shines a beautiful white color. This is an absolutely perfect mushroom.
“Wait! Wait! I’ve found one! I’ve found one!” I yell, and run head first to the mushroom, which is standing calmly under the branches of a skinny birch tree. I fall to my knees, ignoring the fact that my overalls are now smeared with soil, grasp the handle of my knife tightly in concentration, and begin to carefully cut the stem of the mushroom, which turns out to be very soft and easy to cut. In no time the mushroom is in my hand, which is now slimy from the oil on the mushrooms’ cap, and then in our large wicker basket.
Several hours pass, during which the content of our large straw baskets grows until the baskets are so full the mushrooms threaten to fall out of the sides. We walked further and further through the familiar forest, until we come upon a beautiful, crystal-clear spring. It seems as if everything is silent around the spring except the soft gurgling of the water and our own hushed breathing.
I walk to the edge of the stream and examine the water, which is completely clean and see-through. I am followed by my mom and dad, who, too stand at the water’s edge. We stand there for a long time, enchanted by the spring’s beauty. I had never seen anything like it, and, for some reason, decide that this spring is magic.
“Can I drink out of the spring?” I ask my parents hopefully.
“Well, it’s very cold,” my mom says, dipping her hand in the water. “We’ll be home soon, you’ll drink there.”
“No, it won’t be the same. I have to drink out of this spring. It’s magic. There are no magic springs at home. Please!!!” I beg. My mom and dad exchange looks.
“Well,” my dad ponders.
“I suppose,” my mom answers.
“Just a little bit,” my dad adds.
“Yes, I guess that won’t hurt.” My mom agrees.
“Alright, Lina, you may drink a little,” my dad tells me.
I cup my hands like my dad shows me and dip them into the icy water, removing them to find a little pool of ice cold water in my hands. Together, my mom, dad, and I take a sip of the water.
It’s icy, but at the same time, refreshing and crisp. I had never tasted water this delicious and this magical before. I imagine the water running through my body, making every part of it new and clean and fresh. I dink some more, this time feeling as if a pack if liquid ice cubes has just fell down my throat, but nevertheless feeling the magic.
“Will I ever see this spring again?” I ask my parents when they offer to leave the magic spring and head home.
“I don’t know,” my mom answers me. “Maybe someday.”
*~*~*
Since that time, nine years had passed. I have moved away from Russia, away from the forest, and away from the magic spring, which I never saw again, and doubt I will ever see. Somehow, even though I was so young back then, and even though so many things have changed and so many years have passed, I never forgot the magic spring, or the mushroom picking, one of the only reminders I have left of the family that was once happy and together.





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