Of all the fresh fruits I look forward to eating the most each year, peaches rank the highest (raspberries take a very close second). Peaches are better than candy–and I don’t care how much sugar content they have, I can eat six thousand and one in a single sitting and remain 100% guilt free.
This morning I blended up the last of my second bushel. When only four peaches remained in the box, I realized that if I didn’t eat one of them, I would most likely not have another fresh peach until September of next year. Without a second thought I cut it open, removed the pit and skin and sunk my teeth into its juicy flesh. My taste buds knew exactly what to expect and they weren’t disappointed. But what I didn’t expect was the flood of memories that came rushing into my head with that first bite.
My grandpa, Thomas Mower, owned a substantial fruit orchard in Willard, Utah where he grew peaches, apples, cherries, apricots, plums, and grapes. My parents would drive our family down from Wyoming to harvest a truckload or so and bring them back to Star Valley to sell. I never enjoyed doing that; picking fruit is worse than picking worms in my opinion. It’s a hot, sticky job and my allergies always beat me up no matter how hard I defended myself. By the end of the day I felt like a mess with scrapes on my arms, boogers all over my face, and an epidermis that itched like nobody’s business, but then I would sit down and eat a bowl of peaches and cream and all those annoyances quickly took a back seat.
I remember visiting my grandpa in the hospital a few days before he passed away. With a mixed sense of wonder and sadness I reflected how a once strong and unconquerable man had been brought to his deathbed by cancer. When he passed away it was the end of a lot of things, and among those, the fruit orchard.
Before then, each time we brought a load of fruit back to Wyoming, it would fill our garage with the sweet aroma of Fall. As a kid, I looked forward to that intoxicating aroma as much as I did to eating the fruit that produced it.
Fond are my memories of the Fall days where I’d hop out of the school bus and walk up our gravel driveway to the garage, eager to select a juicy peach and take a bite. After my careful selection, I held the fruit in my hand and looked out of the garage at the evening sun, still sharing it’s warmth. I’d eat the peach there with my backpack still on my shoulders; the juice that dripped down my chin didn’t matter (and it still doesn’t). Fall was not Fall and it never will be without fresh peaches.
Perhaps it’s my desire to hold on to those memories that drives me to buy a ridiculous amount of peaches each year–more than my family can eat (which is why my freezer is now half full of peaches). I miss those fruit days, and I miss my grandpa. So when those memories came rushing back my eyes immediately teared up. Slightly embarrassed I turned to the wall to hide my face and share a private moment with my peach and my memories.