I love peaches. One of the joys of late summer is finding that perfect “georgia belle,” firm, pale-fleshed and juicy — sweet with that little edge of floral tartness. I think I had the last one for the year this week, marking the end of a season.
I know I could have canned or frozen peaches throughout the year, but it’s just not the same. Even the peaches my Mama canned in the way back, the closest I’ve ever come, weren’t exactly right. Although, in the dark of a frozen February night, they did warm and brighten the table.
You may know peaches are akin to roses — and in its perfect ripeness you can taste the flower. I learned that ages ago, and maybe that’s one of the reasons for my peachy passion. Another came with Chris into my life….
My skin is some sort of “life” barometer — blushing, flushing, bruising and prickling with willful randomness. Chris, who I began dating in the heat of a Carolina summer, amused himself tracking the vagaries of his “peach,” as my skin provided an ever changing show. When he discovered my love of the actual fruit, a tradition was born. Some time around my birthday, Chris showed up from a sales call near the South Carolina border with a basket of gloriously ripe peaches.
That was seventeen summers of babies and laughter, travails and travels, and bushels of peaches ago. This year, about a week after my birthday, Chris went in for a routine heart catheterization. And that was, as they say in the song, is when “things start[ed] to go wrong…” As the doctors were implanting what they had determined was a routine stent, he arrested and the left side of his heart stopped. The doctor told me there was a point where he was as frightened as he’d ever been doing a procedure. However, thanks to the team’s skill and Chris’ resilience some five hours later, they wheeled him into the Intensive Care Unit, and time could begin passing once more.
There were two points during that long day that threatened my composure, and played hell with my ability to take a light approach to life in general. First, Dr. Wood suggested that it might be a good idea for the girls to come to the hospital and see their father, with an unspoken “just in case” hovering on the fringes of our conversation.
Second, somewhere in the deep darkness of that night, I was in the room with Chris as they brought in a tray for him to mostly observe. It had a fat, yellow canned peach half cupping a scoop of cottage cheese. He groggily focused on the food, trying to eat something as I fed him toddler-sized bites. He stopped me, touched my hand, and said, “I’m sorry….”
“What for,” having been married too long to not ask the question… “I haven’t gotten your peaches yet,” he glanced at the shiny example on the plate. I stroked his hand and had to turn away…
The next week, after he was released from the hospital and into the world of cardiac rehab, I came home from school and found a big bag of late summer peaches spilling onto the kitchen table.
Enjoy those little traditions of life, read some Gary Soto. His poems, and stories, both adult and kid, are lovely. The girls love his Christmas tale, “Too Many Tamales,” about another food memory.
Looking Around, Believing by Gary Soto
How strange that we can begin at any time.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind — white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm,
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We’re keeping busy —
This way, that way, we’re making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.
musical fruit basket: Tu M’as Fait Rire (Beausoleil — “our” band, they epitomize true happiness); Something to Talk About (Bonnie Raitt– we should tell you about how we told our improv class we’re dating 🙂 ); Always Something there to Remind Me (Naked Eyes); I don’t want to Walk Without You (the Harry James orchestra — big bands & bluegrass on Sundays); Walk Right In (the Rooftop singers); We Still Talk the Way Lovers Do (Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra); Quelle Belle Vie (Beausoleil — one of the most perfect “hurtin'” songs ever); Accidentally in Love (Counting Crows); I’ll Cover You (from Rent, while I adore Seasons of Love, this is my fav from the musical); Wake Up (Don Dixon, saw him live once or twice, great producer — but kick butt as a performer); Almost Like Being in Love (from Brigadoon); I Want to Walk you Home (one of Fats Domino’s classics, but Paul McCartney has an excellent cover); Peaches & Regalia (Zappa, do I need to say more?); Big Bad Handsome Man (Imelda May — love her voice); Peachy (Missy Higgins); Lay All your Love on Me (Abba, and the version from Mamma Mia is just fun); Beauty in Everything (Jessica Harper) and Harbor Lights (Bruce Hornsby — desert island song).
It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that mattered in the end. –> Ursula K. LeGuin
I’m originally from Georgia. We had peach trees growing in the yard when I was a kid and the smell of them marked the season with that magical scent. And the scent was all it could ever be for me. Ironically, I am allergic to peaches and cannot eat them without suffering severe convulsions of the stomach and esophagus. One drop of peach juice is expensive, costing an hour of intense pain… the kind that doubles you over as it stabs at you.
One summer, when the unique smell of peaches hung so heavily in the air that I thought I would burst and I was sorely tempted to pay the price of just a bite, I found an artificially flavored peach soda. It had been a long time since I had tasted real peaches… even a hint was welcome to the taste… but no. No. It’s not the same. It’s a mockery on the tongue and a cruelty in the heart. And the next summer, I accepted the smell for what it was. And I let it be enough.
Now, I watch my girls eat peaches and I smile when they smile, the flavor bursting onto their tongues. Some mornings, I pack peaches into their lunches, handling the fruit with plastic to keep the juice from my skin. I see the pleasure they get from peaches and it makes me happy. And, unlike the artificial soda, the pleasure I get from the peaches my girls eat is real and I let it be enough.
I am very glad that your source scored your fix. I can only imagine how amazing those particular peaches must have smelled… let alone tasted. Thank you for your beautifully told story. It is sweet and real. And I let it be enough.
Cheers to you both.
Glad he got his peaches, even hough they were canned. Yum. Now I’m hungry.
Our wedded “fruit of love” is “margarita”.