When Florida is Found in an Orange
As I reached for an orange recently, I recalled the time when my son was younger and looked in the refrigerator. I heard him sigh deeply, as only a teenager can, as he flopped down on the couch.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Oh…nothing, I guess. I was just looking out at the orange tree. There are only a few oranges left at the top of the tree. Not enough to bother with getting out the juicer and I was in the mood for a glass of orange juice.”
“That’s an easy one”, I say, grabbing the paring knife. “Come with me.”
We walked out to the back yard and I instructed him to climb up and get me two nice oranges.
“You’re going to pull out the juicer for two lousy oranges?” He asked with surprise.
“Nope. I’m going show you nature’s perfect drinking cup,” I told him. “Now, take this orange & roll it between the palms of your hand. Be sure to put a little pressure on it.”
Afterwards, I took the orange from him, cut away a small hole in the top, squeezed the sides until a bit of juice bubbled up, and handed it back to him.
“Now, drink the juice by sucking on the top,” I say to him. “As the juice dries up, squeeze the sides a bit and you’ll get more. As the juice runs out, you’ll have to use more and more pressure, but you’ll be surprised at how much there is.”
We sat there, side by side, the sun warm and the air a bit chilly, and my mind’s eye went back 50 years…
“Come with me,” my Mother says with a smile.
And I stand there, in the citrus grove next to my grandmother’s house, wondering why my mother woke me up at daybreak. Was it to see the magical way the fog hovers a foot above the ground, yet rises no further than the bottoms of the tree limbs? The sky was already hot above the trees, but down here, on the ground, it was merely humid; moisture dripped from the leaves and cooled my hand as I reached up to one of the low hanging branches and picked an orange.
Even though I was outside, I felt as if I was in a cozy room, under the tree canopy, brushing at the Spanish Moss that hung down in my face. The world was silent, other than the quail hopping and darting around the trees on little spindly legs.
I stand there in my nightgown; long, brown hair still tangled from sleep, my bare feet already blackening in the grayish, sandy soil. My Mother’s face is filled with a happy secret.
“My father taught me this and now I want to show YOU Nature’s perfect drinking cup,” my mother said to me, handing me an orange with an open hole at the top.
My son nudged me, passing the orange.
“It’s pretty good,” he said with a smile.
It was the sweetest, wettest drink of orange juice I’d had in years.
Sometimes, Florida is found not in a place, but in a memory.