With peaches, it’s easy to get carried away.
Noon and it’s already ninety degrees. The exhausted air seems unable to support itself. Here and there, it will appear to wrinkle under the weight of all that heat. A tree will ripple and I’ll catch myself blinking, staring, testing my vision, or perhaps my sanity.
Across the street, the neighbors' Yorkshire terrier is wearing a tiny red jacket with black straps and silver buckles, languishing beneath the shade of a sweet gum tree.
And if that dog dreams, surely he is dreaming of growing—growing so big, he bursts out of his little red jacket with black straps and silver buckles—growing so huge, he can exact revenge, rounding up his owners, dressing them in red woolen coats with black and silver buttons and setting them upon the front stoop.
It’s the kind of heat that brings peaches. We pile, the five of us, into our too-small car and head around the corner to the local orchard. At the barn, we pick up three buckets, each lined with a clear plastic bag and take three stairs into the red wagon lined on the edges with bales of straw. The driver wears jeans and a blue button-down shirt and dark sunglasses. His straw hat is pushed back upon his head. He greets us and—from behind—climbs aboard the ancient Allis-Chalmers tractor. He starts it and again, the air shimmers with the heat of the exhaust. I sit at the front of the wagon so I can smell that exhaust and remember.
The sun blazes brightly in the cloudless sky. We drive past apple trees and fields of acorn squash, lemon cucumbers and tomatoes, red and green. A family walks through the rows of peppers, bending here and there to make their selections. We pass plum trees and apricot trees and trees full of nectarines. And finally, the driver pulls up to the peaches.
“Red and orange and yellow,” I remind Squints. “Nothing green or squishy.” And we get off the wagon and head for the trees.
Within ten minutes we’ve picked our three buckets full.
“Just one more,” Squints says, when I tell him we’re done. Already, his shirt is full of peaches.
“Yeah,” V adds. “Just one more. This tree is great.”
I pull the bag from one of the buckets and we pick into that until it’s full. We decide not to wait for the wagon but instead walk down the dusty road back to the barn. Occasionally a peach falls from one of the buckets and rolls off into the grass.
* * *
But a family of five each picking a shirt full of “just one mores” leads to over fifty pounds of peaches. The girls leave for work and my husband heads out to mow the lawn. Squints is weeding the front flower beds and in the quiet of the kitchen, I deal with the peaches.
I peel away the skin, red and orange. I slice the fruit into neat sections. I peel and I slice. I slice and I peel. Squints makes trip after trip to the compost bin for me. My back begins to hurt. My feet begin to hurt. I freeze bag after bag and decide to make pie filling to freeze as well.
Squints comes in and makes a pitcher of iced tea. His knees are dirty. His fingernails, too. “What’s for dinner, Mom? I’m starved.”
I glance at the clock. Six-thirty. I look at the peaches still on the counter. “Chicken.” The sun is an orange ball in the sky.
“When are we eating?”
“I’ve got to finish these peaches before I put it on.”
The motor on the mower cuts. The garage door goes down. My husband walks in. He looks at the peaches piled on the counter; the bowls full of skins. “Should we pick something up for dinner?”
Squints grins and we order the Chinese I’ve been craving since the power went out last week.
At eight o’clock, the kitchen is cleaned and the peaches have been tucked away for the winter. We decide to walk.
The sun is a pink streak trapped within clouds. The night air is crisp and cool and welcoming and I head back into the garage to grab my red jacket.
At the farm down the street, a tractor sprays the perimeter of the corn field and I make a mental note to pick corn next week. But that is next week. I am exhausted and certain that this night I will dream of winter and peach pies steaming in the oven.
Labels: Buying Locally, Community, Consumption, Country life, Daughters, Nature, Peaches, Sons