Friday, January 18, 2013

Grapefruit Memories

I haven't had a grapefruit in ages, but there was a big old bag of grapefruit on sale at the commissary so I bought them and have been enjoying one every morning.  Eating it brings back a whole slew of memories about my Grandparents.  They've been gone a long time now.  We were never that close, by that I mean as a military family separated by distance and time, we were lucky if we got to see them once a year, often it was less.  We were also separated by time or age, they were in their 40's when they adopted my dad so by the time I actually have concrete memories they were in their 80's.  They weren't the get down on the floor and play kind of grandparents, but nevertheless some of my strongest and most vivid memories include them.

That's where the grapefruit comes in.  They had the most enormous grapefruit tree in their backyard; taller than their house and open on the underneath. You could go in under the bottom branches and it was like a secret clubhouse.  I'd create all sorts of imaginary games under that tree, we'd also wake up in the mornings and go climb the tree to pick our own breakfast grapefruit.  I remember sitting up in the tree on a branch trying to decide which was the most perfect one.  The rare times they would come visit us, they always brought one whole suitcase full of nothing but grapefruit.

One year they took us grape picking, we'd never done anything like that.  I remember for days afterwards there were bowls of grapes all over the house and every time you turned a corner you could grab a handful of grapes.  They put huge screens covered in grapes out in the backyard and dried their own raisins.  I think that's the first time I ever realized that raisins came from grapes!

My grandfather made his own Kachinas.  The whole house was full of them, everyone of them different with it's own story.  I loved to look at them and pick my favorites.  I still have some.  He collected the wood himself out in the desert, did the research, carved, painted and dressed each one all by himself.  He was a huge rockhound as long as I remember.  There were rock display cases around the house.  Some with regular lights and some with black lights that caused the rocks to fluoresce.  I love to look at them and to this day my very favorite part of the Smithsonian is the Rocks and Gem exhibit. He spoke Spanish, which back then was pretty exotic.  He also made the most amazing homemade bread.  I loved the smell and eating it hot from the toaster slathered with butter.  Most kids would beg for extra dessert, extra candy.  I use beg for extra bread and plot ways that I could sneak extra slices so no one would know how many I'd actually had.  Again, to this day... always choose bread over dessert if given the option!

They lived in Sun City for all my memories of them.  They drove a Golf Cart to run errands and they let us drive if we were good.  We ate at 7am, 12pm and 6pm and sometimes we got a snack at 3pm.  Hunger didn't factor in, you ate at the appointed times!  It's where I learned to read a map.  My favorite thing to do as soon as we got there... I would take my Grandmother's old bike and a map.  I would just ride the bike randomly, trying not to pay attention to my route.  Just ride until I got tired, then I'd stop get the map out and practice navigating my way back to their house!  Can you imagine?  Back then, no cell phones, no nothing.  I was probably 10 or 12 an I would be allowed to go out and purposely try to get lost and find my way home.  I had no idea where I was, my parents had no idea where I was and everyone was okay with that!!  It boggles my mind now, but I never got lost enough that I had to be rescued.  I imagine that's where I got my confidence to navigate all the new towns we lived in.  No GPS, just a girl and her map.  I've always said, if you give me a map I can get anywhere.

My grandfather was a dentist.  Every time we came to visit the first thing he would say to us was, "show me your teeth."  We'd open wide.  Once I had a front tooth that refused to come in.  I had an empty hole for months.  We went to visit, he took one look at the hole and took me into the kitchen.  Gave me an ice cube to hold on the spot and then before I knew what he was doing, he made a little slit in my gum with a scalpel and within 10 minutes that tooth was coming down in my mouth.  I remember the shock when I realized what he was going to do, I don't remember any pain, but then the amazement as I practically watched that tooth drop down into my mouth!

All this makes me sad that I didn't get to know them better as an adult.  But I guess that's always the way it is.  When you are young, you never appreciate what you might lose.  I know they did amazing things.  My grandfather was in WWII and I have a picture of him at Iwo Jima, but don't really know anything else.  My grandmother was hugely smart, had a degree in physics when women didn't do that.  I believe she was the first woman to get a physics degree at the University of Oklahoma.  I'm sure there's so much more I could have learned and appreciated.

When we were little and would ask my Dad about his childhood, he would always tell us "I was never a kid."  Now that I'm older, if he is like me, it's not that he was never a child, it's just that he can't remember any of it!  John can tell story after story after story about his childhood and I can't remember anything.  That's what makes these memories all the more precious to me!

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