Sunday, June 26, 2011

The warm taste of Summer

Spring this year seemed wanting to remind us all of the cool wet winter that ended in March. Sycophant to the memorable winter where rain came down on both sides of the walls to our home and we kept towels on the sills and floors, spring gave us more rain and even snow in April. Then she saw her time of end rushing close and warmed. The last day of spring had triple digits. The first day of summer was blinding sidewalks, prickly grass and shade that provided no relief.

“You’ve got to pick those oranges,” Manuel the landscaper told me. The oranges were already scattered around the tree in our backyard. “There gonna be sweet too. But it’s time to pick them now.”

A lot was new to me including having a big backyard and fruit trees. I was thankful to have someone experienced advising me. I planned out what to do and Friday morning went to work.

I picked out the few good oranges on the ground around the tree. The rest were bug eaten or rotting. I got an 8 foot stepladder and set it up under the orange tree. Then I went inside and summoned my three youngest. It was mid morning and already hot outside on this the 4th day of summer. The ceiling fans had been at work non-stop for as many days. The air conditioning was set in the high 70’s and the house was cool and dark. The kids were incredulous that their father wanted them to come outside for a project.

Once outside Sarah took a large wicker basket and I gave Jamie and Nathaniel a beach towel. At the tree I had them put all the windfalls in the compost. I showed the boys how to hold the towel like firemen might hold something similar to catch a person jumping from a building.

Then I climbed ladder and began picking and dropping. Some oranges needed a good twist and tug, others just came off in my hand. The boys caught them in the towel and Sarah gathered them out and put them in the basket. Jamie and Nathaniel vied for the scarce patches of shade. An occasional orange that was extra heavy loosened Nathaniel’s grip and his end of the towel dropped and the orange rolled away. When I moved the ladder the kids took turns holding or gathering. Soon the basket was full and so still seemed the tree. Sarah ran and got a laundry basket and we continued.

Finally I had circled the tree and picked every orange I could reach. Up out of my reach were a dozen or so more oranges glowing in the morning sun. I had Sarah stand on the bottom rung of the ladder and climbed as high as I could and picked a few more. Then I pulled a branch close to me but couldn’t reach what was on it. When I let it go and it sprang back it released several oranges and they dropped to the ground.

The thoughts of “Why didn’t I think of this before?” and “this is just cheating” came to me at once. I warned the kids below and got a good grip on the tree. Then I shook.

Oranges fell all over. The boys gave up trying to catch and worked on not getting hit. I shook the branches until the shower stopped. Just before I climbed down I grabbed an orange that had fallen and stopped wedged in front of me. At the bottom of the ladder I felt sticky juice on my hand and saw that the orange had a thin split that was now dripping. After a small taste I lifted the orange over my head and squeezed. The fresh orange gushed out into my mouth and over my lips and face. It was warm and sweet and there is something about squeezing juice from an orange right out of a tree that feels almost decadent. This is what the Joad family dreamed of crossing the desert on the way to California. This was what Adam and Eve did before the fall of man. This was a taste of heaven.

The kids found more oranges that had split when they fell. Soon we were all dripping juice all over our faces and savoring the taste. I was able to rip my orange open and eat the insides out. I called Benjamin outside to share in this and then Prajna. Harrison wasn’t home and doesn’t care for oranges.

I took some oranges to work that day to share and we still have dozens in the house that Sarah will squeeze to make juice. Some of the juice will be made into popsicles.

Goodbye Spring, and thanks for the cool weather. We might miss you come late August. But summer with its ferocious heat arrived on Tuesday. And on Friday we drank in not only juice warm and fresh but a good bit of that magic that comes with summertime.

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