” An eternal dance of birth and death,
In every breath, we find new depth,
A weaving of life’s grand scheme,
In love’s embrace, we dare to dream.”

Julia Delaney

It was early June 1989, Kiev, Ukraine. Still, under the Soviet Union… I just gave birth to my daughter. It was a very long and tumultuous endeavor… Exhausted and happy, I was lying alone in a huge and cold delivery room. During Soviet times, they would immediately take your baby from you (no touching, no skin-to-skin contact) and bring it to you just for feeding for the next seven days. Visitors like close relatives and husbands were strictly prohibited as well.

So there I was, after 28 hours of intense natural labor, all alone, lying in euphoric exhaustion on a high, cold metal gurney covered with a hospital sheet, cherishing the glimpses of my baby daughter, longing to hold her. Shell-shocked, I was blindly staring at the ceiling with a sweet smile across my face.

My lucid dreams of seeing my daughter again were abruptly interrupted by the heavy-set lady courier towering over my bed. She slipped to me a handwritten note from my mother, who was diligently walking the whole day around the hospital building, peaking into the reception window every hour on the hour, eagerly awaiting the news of the arrival of her first grandchild.

“Congratulations, dear! I’m so happy for our precious baby girl! Good job!!! What do you want to eat? Love, Mom.” Yep, that was the note. You should know those Ukrainian mothers; they always want to feed you. Nevertheless, this simple question brought me straight down to earth and back into my body.

“What do I want, what do I want, what do I want to eat?” – I mumbled in my head with genuine curiosity, as if I were asking every part of my body in turn. Needless to say, my body felt very different and sort of… hollow. And suddenly, “Strawberries, yes, strawberries and chocolate!!!” – my tastebuds were giggling with excitement.

But you see, the thing is, back then in Ukraine, we truly ate seasonally and mostly locally sourced produce. It wasn’t a matter of choice; that’s just how it was. So, strawberry season was right around the corner but had yet to begin. “Sure, dream big, dear..” said the voice in my head sarcastically, dampening my short-lived rise.

“Any requests for your mom? I have to go, you know, you’re not the only one here,” said the courier lady, holding the pan in front of me and rapidly pacing in place.

So on the same note, I scribbled: “Thank you, Mom. She is beautiful. All I want is strawberries and chocolate, so don’t bother. All is fine. Love you,” and with that, I handed over the note and returned to my daydreaming haze. It seemed like I went into a time warp when suddenly, the big double doors opened wide, bursting my dream bubble, and a whole group of doctors swarmed around me. Pulse, temperature, eyes, sutures, questions, questions, questions, and the nurse…. the nurse scribbling the notes into a stack of forms within a large paper folder….

And suddenly, through all that circus, my tastebuds began pulling me away from all the pushing and nagging buzz around me. Strawberries… I felt the taste of strawberries in my mouth. “Yes, it’s strawberries!”-my nose wiggled along with my tastebuds.

I turned my head slightly towards the backdoor. The courier lady stood there. This time, she was smiling and patiently waiting. She was holding a quart jar covered with a cheesecloth… a jar filled to the brim with the freshest, brightest, most fragrant, and juiciest strawberries I have ever encountered in my entire life!

“To room #9!” I heard the loud order as the steel gurney underneath jerked from the brakes and began turning around, rolling out towards the open mouth of the giant double door. As I was balancing on the top of the turning and rolling bed, overwhelmed, trying to make sense of it all, the jar… the glass jar with strawberries and the dark chocolate bar landed in my hands. The courier lady was rushing along with the gurney as I mumbled in disbelief, “Is that for me? Can I have it?”

“Eat, daughter, eat,” she said, tapping me twice on the shoulder before vanishing into the echo of the hospital’s maze.

In disbelief, I stared at the shaken strawberry jar in my hands, sipping the fragrant aroma escaping through the cheesecloth. I opened the top, and, Oh mine, the large, bright, juicy red beauty, was waiting there for me. I pulled her out of the jar by the crunchy green fringe. By the time the strawberry reached my nose, my body was already permeated with her fragrance. And then I took one last deep and slow breath, seeping in the bright aroma of this first-of-the-season plump beauty.

“Oh, yes!!!!” – I looked at her one more time before I closed my eyes and indulged in the ecstatic sensation of the first bite. Firm and juicy goodness blasted my taste buds…

And there I was, rolling down the hallways into the world of motherhood, holding a jar in one hand and a strawberry in the other, with my head gloriously tilted up, watching the heavenly strawberry nectar dissolve into me.

I always remembered this bite and this ride.


Be Alive 🌱
Love ❤️, Julia

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