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Strawberry fields for joking

If I were to write a nursery rhyme about a garrulous geezer on a fruitful foray with his giddy granddaughters, it would go like this: "Punny Poppie picked a peck of perfect produce."

That precious pair of pumpkins, Chloe, 7, and her sister, Lilly, 3, are the apples of my eye. Actually, both eyes, since there are two of them. And we love to go pumpkin and apple picking, though not at the same time because I couldn't lug that much fruit without collapsing in a field of screams.

But we recently found ourselves in strawberry fields - not forever, but for an hour's worth of picking pleasure.

Chloe, Lilly and I were accompanied by my wife, Sue, and our younger daughter, Lauren, the girls' mother. We all wore masks, except to take pictures,and kept a social distance from other strawberry pickers, primarily to ensure physical safety but also to protect the mental health of innocent bystanders who might otherwise be exposed to my stupid jokes.

Like this one:

Me: "Knock, knock."

Chloe and Lilly: "Who's there?"

Me: "Berry."

Chloe and Lilly: "Berry who?"

Me: "We're having a berry good time!"

Chloe and Lilly giggled. Other pickers picked up the pace.

Two who bravely didn't were a very nice woman named Jenny and her equally nice granddaughter, Abby.

"Hi!" Chloe chirped. "My name is Chloe and this is my sister, Lilly. What's your name?"

"Jenny," said Jenny.

"What's your name?" Chloe asked Abby.

"Abby," said Abby, who is the same age as Chloe.

"Nice to meet you," said Chloe, who pointed to me and said, "This is my grandfather, Poppie."

"Hi, Poppie," said Jenny.

"Hi, Grammy," I replied when she told me what Abby calls her. "Are you a singer?"

"I wish," said Jenny.

"I can sing," said Abby.

"You must be good," I said. "You have a Grammy."

That joke and another one I told about not being Chuck Berry went over Abby's head (she's short), but that didn't stop Chloe from repeating my earlier one: "We're having a berry good time!"

Jenny and Abby laughed.

"Chloe is funny," Jenny said. "She must take after her grandfather."

Sue and Lauren shook their heads and kept walking.

After saying goodbye to Jenny and Abby, the girls and I took a strawberry shortcut, moving over to an untouched row to select the plumpest, juiciest berries.

"Look at mine, Poppie!" exclaimed Lilly, who tossed away a few that weren't up to her standards and filled her basket with only perfect pickings.

Chloe also had discerning tastes and even faster fingers, loading her basket in what must have been record time.

After an hour, the Strawberry Alarm Clock went off in my head and we headed back to our cars. On the way, Chloe introduced herself to a girl named April, who said she has a brother named Colton. As he passed by, Chloe said, "Your name is Colton!"

The kid blanched and said, "How did you know?"

"You're famous," I told him.

He stared at me incredulously.

"Your sister told me," Chloe explained. "Look at our strawberries!"

"Wow," said Colton.

"We left some for you out in the field," I said. "But you better hurry up. They're going fast."

Colton looked at me warily and walked away.

We stopped at the stand for an orchard pie filled with blueberries, raspberries and, of course, strawberries.

When we got to our cars, Lauren said she was going to use her berries to make smoothies for the girls.

Sue said she was going to make strawberry shortcake.

After popping a sweet berry into my mouth, I said I was going to make my own creation: strawberry daiquiris.

"After listening to your stupid jokes," Sue said, "I could use one."

- Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezimawrites a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, theStamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of four books,Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestandNini and Poppie's Excellent Adventures, all of which are "crimes against literature." He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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