“Sorry, I’m allergic to strawberries.” Maggie Henderson smiled sheepishly.
“You… are?” her elderly neighbor frowned. She looked at the counter in the kitchen and stared at the food set out as a buffet.
“Yes…” Maggie frowned now as well. She didn’t mean to upset the old woman.
“Oh, dear,” her neighbor sighed, “if only I had known. I am so sorry.”
“No, please don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.” Maggie shook her head trying to defend Mrs. Ravens.
Mrs. Ravens had a prize-winning garden in her backyard. She was never married and she didn’t have any children of her own. So, once she retired, she took up gardening as her hobby. It ended up becoming more than a hobby, but the sole reason of her existence. When she wasn’t able to garden in the winter, she hibernated because she didn’t know what else to do with herself.
When Maggie received an invitation to go to Mrs. Ravens’s “Garden Party” she assumed all the food would be from her garden. This would include lettuce, carrots, corn, pumpkin, squash, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, and many more; including strawberries. However, Maggie just figured she wouldn’t eat the strawberries.
Apparently, unknown to Maggie, Mrs. Ravens decided to experiment with strawberries and only strawberries that past summer. Everything in her garden, aside from flowers, and the occasional vegetable to accompany dinner, were strawberries. Mrs. Ravens discovered how the Internet worked at the beginning of the summer and decided to challenge herself through her gardening.
She found recipe upon recipe for strawberries through the Internet and because of that she wanted to try them all out. She started looking up recipes that used pumpkin so she could grow only pumpkins next summer and have a pumpkin party. This would continue on with different fruits and vegetables for summers to come. Unfortunately for Maggie, this summer just happened to be all about strawberries.
Everything served at the party had strawberries in it; real strawberries, too. Mrs. Ravens didn’t bother to use strawberries flavors or anything artificial in her cooking. She only and always used natural ingredients in her food.
“I wouldn’t have invited you if I had known, dear.” Mrs. Ravens was pouting. She didn’t blame Maggie, but she blamed herself.
“Don’t feel bad, Mrs. Ravens. I’m sure everything is delicious. I’m just sorry that I’m not able to try any of it.” Maggie looked around the kitchen. She watched her other neighbors wander from dish to dish, scraping food onto their plates as though they were at a buffet. The food looked good. The food smelled good. Maggie wanted to try a taste, but she couldn’t risk it.
Mrs. Ravens scratched the back of her head. “Well, I would still like you to stay for the party. I have milk in the fridge and I have some cookies. I made strawberry cookies, but I have Oreos as well. You can have that for dessert, if you like.”
Maggie opened her mouth to agree, but Mrs. Ravens continued to rummage through her kitchen to find other things.
“For dinner… I don’t know what I can give you for dinner.” She murmured to herself. She opened a cabinet and smirked hopefully at her young neighbor. “Peanut butter and jelly? I have fresh home-made bread.”
Maggie frowned and shook her head slowly. “Uh, I’m allergic to peanuts… sorry.”
Mrs. Ravens sighed and let her shoulders droop. “Were you always allergic to these things? I watched you grow up next door. How did I not know any of these things about you?”
“Well, I’ve never eaten at your house before.” Maggie shrugged. “Don’t worry about it, though. It’s all okay.”
“But what am I going to feed you?” Mrs. Ravens asked in a panic.
“I can eat when I get home. I would love to have some Oreos and milk, if that offer still stands.” Maggie suggested. She wanted to make Mrs. Ravens feel better, but she didn’t know how to go about that.
Mrs. Ravens nodded her head with a smile. “Of course you can still have cookies and milk, dear. I just feel bad that I can’t give you anything else.”
“Don’t worry about that. I just appreciate you inviting me to this party in the first place.” Maggie attempted to make her elderly neighbor feel better.
“Well… are you allergic to anything else? I plan on having a party like this at the end of every summer, but just with something different I’ve grown in my garden.” Mrs. Ravens explained cautiously.
“I am only allergic to strawberries and peanuts.” Maggie confirmed.
“Next year I plan on using pumpkins in everything.”
“Pumpkins are fine,” Maggie nodded even though she didn’t like pumpkin all that much. However, she was willing to try it for Mrs. Ravens.
“So you’ll be able to come to my party next summer and you can actually eat?”
“Wonderful!” Mrs. Ravens clapped her hands together and walked over to the cabinet again. She took out a cup and poured a glass of milk for Maggie. Then she took out the Oreos and handed Maggie the entire package.
“Eat as much as you want,” she explained, “You know where the milk is. If there is anything else that you would like to eat, just let me know and I’ll tell you if it has strawberries or peanuts in it.”
Maggie chuckled. “Thanks, Mrs. Ravens.”
Mrs. Ravens patted Maggie on the shoulder with a smile and disappeared into the other room.
Maggie poured her glass of milk down the sink drain and placed the empty glass in the sink. She took out three Oreo cookies and stared at them.
A young boy who lived a few houses down the street stared at the cookies in Maggie’s hands. Maggie put the package away and handed the three cookies to the boy.
“Do you want some?”
He nodded and took the cookies with a smile.
“Don’t let Mrs. Ravens see.” Maggie explained and watched the boy eat the cookies quickly right in front of her.
Maggie sighed. She didn’t have the heart to tell Mrs. Ravens that she was allergic to milk as well.