Picking tomatoes, “it should be fun!”

Summer holidays were one of the most favorite parts of Keti’s life. As soon as the school was over, she headed to the Western part of Georgia, to a beautiful mountain village with breathtaking views. This was a very special time – spending long summer days with summer-time friends and cousins, all of whom also used to visit the village from different towns of Georgia and enjoy time together in her grandmother’s house. Keti’s aunt and grandma always cooked delicious food for the kids and all the kids had to do was eat and play.

One day Keti’s uncle and aunt said that it was time to pick tomatoes, which started ripening. “If we don’t pick them tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the birds will start eating them, or they will get so ripe that we will not be able to preserve them,” the concerned aunt told them.  Keti heard them talking about picking potatoes and for a moment recalled the texts from her Georgian language textbook with the pictures of children helping their grandparents in the fields with happy faces. “It should be fun”, thought Keti and asked her uncle if they could also join in picking tomatoes. “Ah, no!”, firmly said the uncle, “You think it’s fun. But it is not. After 15 minutes you all will get bored and then what do I do? Nobody can take you back home.” Uncle was not interested at all in taking the 7 kids to the tomato fields. But after everyone begged, he agreed. The aunt liked the decision too and promised the kids that she would bake “Zebra” cake for them and make home-made ice-cream in exchange for helping in the field.

It was such an exciting morning! The kids put their sunhats and each put a pair of gloves and scissors in their pockets. Keti was already thinking about how she would write this exciting story about “How I spent my summer holidays” after returning back to school in September. The fields were half an hour drive from the house. All kids and the aunt sat in the back of an open part of the truck, which uncle borrowed from the neighbor. Everyone was so excited – laughing, joking, trying to override the noise of the truck with their loud voices. The breeze in their faces felt so pleasant! Stretching their hands, children erupted singing some random songs.

Upon arrival uncle gave very thorough instructions about how to pick tomatoes: “Look under the leaves, as you see the tomato, first try with your hands. If it’s too hard, leave it. This means that it needs a little bit more time. If not, carefully use the scissors to cut them and put them gently in the baskets.” Everything was clear. They all started from the same side of the field. It did not turn out as easy a task as the children imagined. Is this tomato soft enough to pick? First the kids tried to help each other by crossing into the other’s lanes and checking the tomatoes. Then they asked endless questions to uncle and aunt: it’s a bit green, it’s kind of hard, shall I still pick it? The aunt was patiently answering. The uncle was losing his patience. Soon, the kids decided to compete with each other by counting how many tomatoes each of them had in their baskets. As the competition started, there was no time to check the ripeness of tomatoes anymore. All they did was just picking and throwing tomatoes in the basket. But this competition became boring soon. Keti’s cousin had an idea! “Let's stand on the opposite sides of the lanes and throw tomatoes in each others’ baskets!” That turned out to be really fun. Picking and throwing, sometimes making it and sometimes missing the baskets. In 10 minutes, all one could hear was laughter and complaints, “Hold your basket well, don’t move it around!” Occasionally, the children would hear their aunt screaming “Stop it!” or “You are spoiling the harvest!” or “It is not a basketball field!”, but nobody was paying attention to her. But the uncle’s voice could not be ignored. “Enough is enough,” he finally yelled loudly, “Now all of you, go out of the tomato field and stay by the fence until we are done.” He seemed so mad that the kids did not even try to argue with him. Instead they went to the open field and started playing with their sun hats and gloves. Then one kid heard something, started crying, blaming another. Keti got hungry. She stopped playing and instead started watching the uncle and aunt and calculating the time they would need for finishing the work. Soon others also started whining that they were hungry. “I told you, we should not have taken them,” said the uncle and instructed all the kids to get in the truck. The aunt stayed. The uncle seemed so angry that the kids could feel they better stay quiet.

And then Keti remembered her aunt’s promise. “Will you make Zebra cake for us tonight?”, she asked loudly from the truck so that the aunt could hear. “I will”, said the aunt. “Yes, they worked so hard, they deserve it,” responded Keti’s uncle sarcastically and started the truck.