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Life

Red state
Distracted by the promising color of cherries -- and other fruits

 

 

January 10, 2006
iranian.com

If you walked into my cozy little home tonight -- right now -- you’d see my life splashed with red. My red couch, resting against a beige wall; me on my little chair, wearing a red shirt, leaning against my red cushions; the red kitchen with white tiles; the red tablecloth on our dark wooden dining table. A little bit of red almost everywhere. And among these splashes of color, one particular splash of misplaced caught my attention and made me a little discombobulated. I was relishing a bowl of cherries with my eager accomplice of a husband, and their sweet redness got me thinking.

We went to Costco yesterday, and happened upon the loveliest looking cherries I’ve seen in a while. In America, fruit almost always looks beautiful. You may not smell anything when you hold it close to your nose. You probably won’t taste anything when you eat it, either. If you want cherry or orange flavor, you can have it in some syrup form -- but rarely in fresh fruit form like you did in Iran.

So there we were looking at a lovely box of big, red cherries. M pointed them out, but I was the one who couldn’t resist the sight of them, even though I knew it was long past cherry season and even during cherry season it wasn’t really cherry season here. So we came home with our box of cherries in the trunk, and between you and me, I was a little distracted by their promising redness all the way home. I eventually washed them and piled them into a dark brown bowl. They were a beautiful sight. I was happy before I even tried a single one.

Eventually, I broke down and started eating them with M. Lo and behold, they were delicious. Not as good as the cherries we picked from our orchard in Iran on those hot summer days, long, long ago; but they were delicious none the less. So as we sat there, savoring our bowl of cherries, I was tickled by our red theme, our out-of-season bowl of cherries and memories of days gone by.

The joy of cherry eating gave way to thoughts of my past life. Once upon a time, we only ate cherries in the summer -- their shiny redness signaling long days away from school, reading and staying up all night with giggling cousins who’d stay over for whole weeks at a time.

As a matter of fact, I associated fruits with different times and things in my life. Watermelons floating in the pool or fountain signaled sweet afternoon snacks and cool breakfasts, the time between filled with cousins, family, chores and moments stolen in a corner with books I’d smuggled into the house. Honeydew, apples and pears were back to school season, days full of trepidation at the thought of new teachers, classmates and new book smells. Oranges, tangerines and ‘sweet lemons’ chased away our colds in the winter, being squeezed by loving grown-up hands and mixed in careful portions to prevent the bitterness of one, balancing the sourness of the other.

Finally there was beautiful, fun Spring with its baby fruits that weren’t quite ready for Eid yet, but were so fun to eat -- the sour plums, the choghaleh badooms, the giddiness of life in our childish hands. This life by the seasons had a certain charm, the limitations making the heart beat fonder for what was yet to come. Why else would we get so excited about the idea of watermelon on Yalda, the thought of now-bar fruit and the arrival of every season’s specialty?

Today, if we crave watermelon in December, we can go to Vons and get some-- cool and pre-cut for our convenience. Strawberries are almost always available, large and tempting, even if they lack any identity what-so-ever. Even the lovely cherries we bought -- while a treat -- don’t belong on my tongue right now. The thrill of seasonal life is gone, erased by the seamlessness of global life in America. I appreciate this convenience, it appeals to my ridiculously impatient nature.

But each time I bite into a peach in November, eat watermelon with bread and cheese in February, or find big strawberries winking at me in the store in December, I’ll know these fruits are misplaced relics from another world. They are no more what they seem, than I am. We’ve just found our way here and made this place home for today, knowing our roots and flavor are elsewhere -- despite the pretty packaging.

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