Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tomatoes (m)

I was ravenous around lunchtime today.  Maybe it was the trip to Costco this morning where I had to dodge free samples of Pillsbury crescent rolls, mini egg rolls, "homemade" macaroni and cheese, spinach ravioli and chocolate covered almonds.  I felt like Ulysses navigating my way around the Sirens.  It was a bitch.

I knew it would be all over points-wise if I started with the turkey sandwich (I would have inhaled that and looked for more). Instead, I washed some tomatoes which had ripened on my windowsill.  They came from a tomato plant Sam and I planted this summer.

I bit into the tomato and a very strange thing happened.  I got a wave of nostalgia for my grandparents.  Seriously.  Tears in my eyes.  

My mother's mother was a beautiful woman who had a very difficult life. I remember she used every patch of earth on her property to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers.  I had a flashback of her one sunny day in her blue checked housedress picking the ripe tomatoes and putting them in her apron.  Lunch was a tomato salad with olive oil, ground salt, garlic cloves and basil served with fresh crusty bread.  Bliss.  Just thinking about her made me sad.  She and I had the closest of relationships.

My father's father was a trip.  He guarded his tomatoes with his life.  Once, when I was about 14 years old, I wandered into his garden and offered to help.  He stared at me for a minute and asked me, "Are you all right?"  What??  "I said are you all right?" he repeated.  I asked him what he meant by that and he asked me if I felt all right.  "Yes," I said.  He then told me to go into the house and ask my aunts if I was all right. "But Papa Nonnie, I'm telling you that I'm all right!".  He wasn't buying it.

I stormed into the house, angry and confused.  I was used to not being able to communicate with his wife who never learned English but this was a first between him and me.

My aunts laughed and said, "He means are you having your period?"  Oh My God, I thought.  Gross.  Why?  "Because he thinks that when a woman is having her period something happens to her body that makes the tomato plants die if she touches them." Voodoo gardening.....only my family.

So, I cried and I laughed and finished the tomatoes.  Who knew a simple thing like a tomato could evoke such powerful memories?

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