Watermelons. Luscious, refreshing and satisfying, they deserve another blog post.
Last week, I shared four essential ingredients for eating a watermelon the best way. This week, I bring one final ingredient to your attention for truly memorable watermelon-eating experiences.
Last essential ingredient, but not least
Watermelons, bought not from strangers, but grown in one’s own patch — although my father, a lifelong expert, declared the stolen ones the sweetest. As boys, he and his brothers patronized patches owned by Mr. Purvis Williams and Mr. T.C. Higgenbotham.
Of course, when Dad amazed the Louisiana town by becoming a minister, he swore off such pastimes. When he returned to his hometown as a 79-year-old retiree, however, he celebrated his first watermelon season there by investigating local patches. One flourished near his old homesite. He hadn’t seen watermelons that good since boyhood, the fat green-striped orbs almost bursting with juice.
The patch’s owner: his new pastor.
Dad managed to steer his next conversation with the reverend toward gardening and complimented him on his beautiful melons. As he’d hoped, the pastor invited his new parishioner to help himself.
Dad knew he didn’t mean it. A Southerner himself, he understood the man was just being lyin’-polite. However, while the pastor still regarded him as an ignorant Yankee who didn’t know any better, Dad took advantage. He raided the pastor’s patch and returned home in triumph with a prize watermelon. My parents and I chilled it ice-cold, then devoured it on the front porch with my cousin Tara on a sweltering July afternoon. I couldn’t imagine anything more luscious.
Still, this little feast did not compare with those of my childhood, when Grandpa iced down a dozen from his garden in a horse trough. By mid-afternoon, when even bees buzzing around the pink crepe myrtle bushes sounded hot and lazy, the entire family gathered on the back porch for a watermelon feed. Every uncle, aunt and cousin received half a melon to munch.
After we finished, the adults, anticipating the imminent Watermelon Seed War, banished us kids to the yard. There, we discharged our arsenals without harming any grown-ups.
Sometimes, Dad peeled thin green slices from the outside rind with his pocketknife. He fashioned these into Billy Bob buckteeth that put the costume-shop variety to shame. Dad pulled his hat down over his ears and gave us big green-toothed grins. We stuffed the “teeth” into our mouths, yuk-yukking at each other. Occasionally, one of the toddlers stuck seeds up his nose, which was always good for a little excitement when things grew dull.
Thirty-five years later, after we had devoured the last sweet pink chunk of his pastor’s watermelon, Dad saved the seeds and tended a prize patch that resurrected delicious memories of past banquets on the porch.
God help the rascally kid or retired minister who tried to steal his watermelons.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What precious watermelon memories come to mind as summer approaches?
There’s a right way to eat a watermelon. Then, there’s the best way.
The right way involves turning store-bought melons into cute little chunks on fancy toothpicks or artificial-looking balls on a fruit plate.
The best way includes all the proper ingredients for a truly memorable watermelon-eating experience. Here’s what you need to assemble.
First essential ingredient
Order a summer day so hot the gooey blacktop on every street and road shifts under your steps. A day when you envy frogs, who support themselves in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, yet spend all their time at the beach.
Second essential ingredient
Invite family, friends and neighbors to come savor the delicious fruit because the best watermelon is never eaten alone.
Third essential ingredient
Gather newspapers, preferably none that contain my column.
My family has used these inexpensive, highly disposable watermelon-eating place mats for generations. Diners spread them on their laps, where they spit their seeds. If dampened sufficiently, newspapers also imprint “City Sewer Plan Stinks” or similar inspiring headlines on new white shorts or bare legs. With luck, these remain several days, no matter how hard your mother scrubs.
Fourth essential ingredient
Locate a screened-in porch with adequate waterproof seating for all those people you invited. Watermelon loses its double-impact flavor if eaten indoors, where consumers cannot apply luscious, sticky juices directly to arms, legs and tummies, as well as ingesting the fruit by mouth. Also, eating sessions inside often are cut short by irate mothers who obsess about freshly mopped kitchen floors and other irrelevant issues.
Yes, watermelon tastes best outside. If a screened-in location isn’t available, backyards, decks and parks also present good watermelon-eating sites, but you may as well send invitations to flies and yellow jackets, who — like some human relatives — come whether you invite them or not.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where do you prefer to eat watermelon? And, who do you invite to share the bounty?
OMG, You are right, of course. We want our hotel rooms — and our politicians — much cleaner than we are at home.
My grandson hunched over a piece of paper, his small fingers busy writing.
“Are you making up a story?”
“Nah. Writing a letter.”
“The Tooth Fairy. She’s late.” He shook his head. “But I better edit this before I put it under my pillow.”
Words to warm an English-major grandma’s heart.
However, his efforts inspired me to wonder: Where did this Tooth Fairy person/custom originate?
Possibly with Norse culture. Warriors paid offspring for their baby teeth, carrying them into battle as good luck charms. Viking kids apparently made a real killing, much more than the $3.50 – 3.70 per tooth received by today’s little capitalists.
But twenty-first-century children benefit in other ways. For example, girls can visit websites maintained by their personal Tooth Fairies that feature games, cartoons, castles, and Tooth Fairy stores.
If their age, I’d deluge my online Tooth Fairy with letters, love and charges on my parents’ Visas. As a Viking child, I gladly would have done my patriotic duty. However, no Vikings, Internets or parental credit cards existed during my era. I knew only that the shadowy Tooth Fairy appeared an insomniac.
Did she also bring new teeth to baby siblings, “gifts” that morphed them — and the rest of our family — into insomniacs? I considered lying in wait and firing pillows at her.
Besides, she showed up late — or not at all — when money was tight at our house. When I did discover a shiny dime under my pillow and bought a giant PAYDAY, though, I appreciated anew the Tooth Fairy’s efforts.
The irony of buying candy with Tooth Fairy money was lost on me and my friends. But we deduced other important Tooth Fairy principles, including: the bigger the teeth, the lower our returns. By the time we lost primary molars, the Tooth Fairy had deserted us for younger devotees with handmade Tooth Fairy pillows. The dentist barred us from his treasure chest, even if we didn’t yell.
This permanent-tooth thing was overrated.
Little did we know that soon, instead of raking in dimes, we’d pay more than the cost of a whole bag of PAYDAY candy bars and receive root canals in return.
Lou the Tooth Fairy of YouTube fame briefly renewed my hopes for adults. A balding, sixtyish man dressed in a pink tutu, Lou hands cooperative patients cash. I could handle that — plus back pay since age 12.
Sadly, Lou appears only when paid to do ads. I like my grandson’s Tooth Fairies better. Hardworking and crazy busy, they would appreciate help. As an honorary Tooth Fairy, I also could write my grandson a reply.
But I’d better edit it twice.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did the Tooth Fairy ever visit you?
O my God, some of Your children love to sing loud in church, and I’m one of them. While we know You’re not hard of hearing, we’re glad You’re not nervous, either.
What? … OMG, maybe the people in the pews in front of us are?
My husband pokes his head out the bathroom door. “Would you pick up toothpaste while you’re out?”
“Sure.” If I had a brain, I would not ask the following question. But I am an American — programmed by 5,000 daily ads to love choices. “What kind of toothpaste?”
“No fancy stuff. Plain old toothpaste.” Kissing me goodbye, he leaves for work, not noticing his words just shut down my body systems.
“Plain old toothpaste”? How could the love of my life condemn me to such a fate?
Therapeutic coffee brings me to my senses. A veteran of 44 Christmas seasons should not be so easily shaken. Not only will I find plain old toothpaste, I will hit a triple-coupon, buy-10-for-$10 sale.
The 329 brands in the first discount store do not intimidate me. My choice was settled decades ago because, like most parents of Baby Boomers, mine heeded the infallible Sixties’ “Look, Ma, no cavities!” commercials featuring kids wearing Roy Rogers cowboy hats. If you couldn’t trust Roy Rogers for your dental care, whom could you trust?
So, I gravitate to the familiar logo, searching shelves where I should find a hundred tubes of plain old toothpaste. Instead, in my quest for the pure and simple, I must read each and every label. Hubby never has liked big stripes on his shirts or toothpaste.
Blue gels resemble congealed Windex. No peroxide, baking soda, or Clorox® needed. As for pro-health and clean mint varieties — hopefully, they do not present true breakthroughs. Did manufacturers formerly sell anti-health and dirty mint toothpaste?
I cannot find one single tube of plain old toothpaste. But when the going gets tough, wimps hit the Internet. Somewhere in all cyberspace, I will find it.
Instead, I find 3,481 flavors. During the 1960s, any brand that dared deviate from mint was subject to congressional review. Today, however, choices include vanilla, bitter chocolate, caramel, pumpkin pudding, cola, Indian curry and pork. If a person wants to go to work smelling like a distillery, he can brush with bourbon-flavored paste.
However, my husband likes his job. I give up and buy tartar control. Will he notice the difference?
Having spent all energy and brain power on the Great Toothpaste Quest, I have forgotten to buy groceries. Out of milk, I stop by a small village store and discover plain old mint toothpaste. No gel. No bleach. No curry. No bourbon.
I dash home with my treasure, excited. He seems mildly pleased.
Minutes later, he sticks his head out the bathroom door. “Could you buy me more deodorant, please? None of that fancy stuff ….”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “simple” shopping trip turned complicated for you?
Oh, my God, You know that after my first child’s birth, my pastor told me, “Nothing, short of salvation, will change your life like motherhood.” Duh. With my watermelon-sized stomach, hadn’t I been defying gravity? OMG, little did I know that after it flattened—sort of—the real labor began.
So did the joy.
Contrary to logic, as the weather warms, the plant world dons more layers. Bushes and shrubs wrap colorful scarves of leaves and blossoms around their shoulders. Trees drape bare branches with graceful green mantles. My lawn pads itself with a soft, thick layer of crabgrass.
Young human beings, however, shun this idea. Passing our town’s grade school one chilly afternoon, I noticed most shivering kids walking home sported shorts and flip-flops. They looked bluer than Smurfs.
At prom time, young women wearing strapless bodices and frozen smiles grace the spring landscape. A million goose bumps encase these lovelies like Bubble Wrap.
If you’re a parent, you do not puzzle over this missing link between wardrobe and meteorological conditions. Weather has nothing to do with it. What’s really happening? Kids are exercising independence. We all do stupid things at that age so we can grow up to never make stupid decisions again.
Still, as a perfect, mature being, I sympathize. My classmates and I suffered similar symptoms. We of the Dick-and-Jane generation wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing shorts and flip-flops to school. Still, our rebellious frenzy blasted black holes in that era’s proper universe.
We wore sleeveless shirts to class.
Abused classmates still wore sweaters Great-aunt Arlene gave them for Christmas. Obviously, they hadn’t exerted proper control over their parents.
I enjoyed wild, uninhibited freedom — until Mom made me wear a jacket.
In fact, she and my teacher kept me in a catch-22.
Mom: This class sheet says you must dress for all weather possibilities. Wear your jacket.
Teacher: Your mother sent this jacket with you, so you have to wear it.
Me: Can’t I put off hot flashes for a few decades?
We tortured children discarded outerwear as close to school dumpsters as we dared. We left jackets hanging in restroom stalls — or tried to flush them.
But our sins always found us out. Traitors among us tattled. No doubt bribed with extra-long turns at the water fountain, these snitches displayed our jackets and sweaters before the entire class until someone identified the culprits. Never would have I participated in such betrayal.
But when my children were growing up, I not only surrendered to the traitors — I joined their ranks.
Sweaters and jackets remain my friends to this day. They conceal my medical condition known as winter waist, characterized by mysterious swelling and extreme pain when buttoning last spring’s capris. Even when the sun shines, I cling to my compassionate buddies.
Someday, the young will realize that, along with moms and teachers, layers can be their friends.
And trees, who sport new cover-up wardrobes every spring, aren’t so dumb, after all.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you love your layers, too?
Oh, my God, on a gorgeous May morning like this, please help students of all ages who don’t want to study. Lord, help us teachers, who want to play hooky even more. And OMG, please grant us another sunny day soon, when school’s out, when we can all go outside and play.