The case of the missing peach

I first notice the peach on the railing before we leave for the movies. I don’t ask my grandmother about it because she’s not in the room and I think about taking a picture, but even I realize this is only funny to me. Obviously she put it out there to ripen in the sun, even if this still strikes me as funny and a little reckless. Like putting a pie on the sill to cool and leaving for vacation.

The next morning the peach isn’t there but I don’t notice right away. I go outside to drink coffee and soak in the peace and cool of early morning. Right away, I realize it is not quiet and it is hot and I’m not sure where to sit. I remember her mentioning one (or more) chairs being broken and wish I’d asked which one (or ones). None of the chairs look particularly broken. They all have overstuffed and obviously not original cushions and I flashback to the one garage sale we had growing up where my parents sold an easy chair that was missing the elastic straps underneath the cushion. I guess the straps broke at some point and my dad, being relatively handy, cut a square board to fit against the frame, thus supporting the cushion and anyone’s backside who plopped down, devil may care.

Well for reasons not known to me now, though my parents were always thrifty and practical and may have thought up some need for that exact sized square of plywood, they removed the board and hauled the chair out to the yard to sell. Now if you were going to pay $10 (I’m just guessing, I don’t actually remember how much we asked) for a chair, wouldn’t you want to sit on it first? Test it out? Of course you would.

I remember a nice woman came along. I’m picturing her now with dark, possibly permed and close cropped hair and a barrel purse of light tan resting midpoint between her armpit and waist. She eyed up the chair shyly and then backed up carefully like one would into a parking spot but then lowered herself a bit too eagerly, certainly for anyone over 40 pounds onto an unsupported cushion base. The chair cushion swallowed her up and her arms were suddenly waving helplessly like an overturned bug, her legs rendered useless by the unfortunate angle and gravity. The barrel purse only wedged her in tighter. 

I of course ran off to find my brother and tell him the good news but was laughing too hard to explain and lost precious time. By the time we got back, the woman was gone and the chair still there, silently waiting, cushion back in place for the next potential customer.

This morning I pick the chair closest to the door and sit tentatively, gingerly, and I’m sorry to report nothing bad happens. It is not the broken chair. I drink coffee and listen to a family of crows argue and wish I’d brought my journal or something to read, but if I had my eyes might not have fixed on the peach pit sitting on the railing in front of me. Wait, was that where the peach was last night? Wasn’t it down about two feet, to the right? Yes, I’m pretty sure of that because it was centered through the picture window in her kitchen. If I was going to put a peach out to sun ripen, that would be the best spot to keep an eye on it.

Upon closer inspection, there are faint peach slime trails traversing about two feet from the center origination point and the pit itself is picked clean. I like to think I know how to eat stone fruit with little waste – corn on the cob too – but I can tell you I’ve never come anywhere near as clean as this job. Whoever ate this peach had a lot of practice or keen hunger and patience. 

This begged the next question of who ate the peach? My immediate thought is raccoon, but why wouldn’t it take the peach away to its raccoon lair? My second guess is that maybe my grandmother ate the peach, though hastily, and put the pit out to be picked over by birds. I’m embarrassed to write this now, as this makes my grandmother seem a little nutty, perhaps, but it does seem like something she would do. She fills plastic bowls with water for birds. She scatters seeds across the railing in winter. I just thought perhaps she did the same with peach pits not picked perfectly clean.

Later that morning I ask her if she’d left a peach out on the railing.

Oh yes, she says, obviously just remembering. (Would she do the same with pies if she baked?)

Well, I say, it’s not there anymore.

Oh? she says, looking anyway.

Yes, just the pit is left, I say. I try to deliver this news somberly but my tone is more delighted. My grandmother clicks her tongue.

Oh well, she says. I put it out yesterday to get soft. I was going to give it to your girls.

I picture them fighting over a lone peach, lunging at one another, hair and arms flailing. Only one of them likes stone fruit so this would probably never happen.  

What do you think got it? I ask.

A squirrel, she says.

A squirrel? Do you think one could eat a whole peach? What about a raccoon?

No, no raccoon. It was a squirrel, she says.

I realize now a two-foot peach slime trail better fits the profile of a smaller animal unable to carry or even necessarily drag a sizeable piece of fruit to its lair. Squirrels  are also known to (over)stuff things into their cheeks. My grandmother is probably right. She should also probably get that broken chair (or chairs) fixed or maybe not.

On Deal Island

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Pop-Pop
Deal Island is a three mile finger of land and tide about 15 miles off the beaten path in eastern shore Maryland. It’s where my great-grandfather, who we called Pop-Pop, lived until the (and his) mid 80s, which is also the last time I’d visited. Even though he’s long gone and the first word that always comes to mind when I think of Deal Island is mosquitoes, I had to get back. It should have been a tough sell to my girls, but they’re always up for adventure or maybe the challenge of seeing ordinary stuff that way.

We picked a sunny day with low humidity for our trip. If we’d gone the day before, I’m convinced westerly winds would have carried in biting flies like those from a particularly vivid childhood memory. Sure, I remember that time my great-grandfather’s cat scratched a perfect circle of blood around my wrist or the way the massive vinyl swing on his front porch creaked and groaned though never in a way that made me feel uneasy. But I’ll never ever forget the 2 mile walk that felt like 200. My brother and I were nearly eaten alive by greenheads and mosquitoes as we took a fun family hike along the bay. Our parents tossed back helpful tips like “walk faster so they won’t bite you” and other things I’ve surely never said to my own children, who are now more delicious than I. Deal Island was originally called Devil’s Island, though I’m not sure there’s truth to the rumors it was once a hotbed of pirate activity. If so, those were some tough pirates.

Driving in that clear day with its delightfully low dew point, the first thing we noticed was a perfect stranger waving to us. In fact, he didn’t even look up so wouldn’t have known we were strangers, though I don’t guess it would have mattered. I’d remembered it as a kind of Mayberry on the water, and not much had changed.

The old bank building was still there. My great-grandfather worked there until the stock market collapse of 1929. When there was a run on the bank, a customer who was also a neighbor waved a gun at him. It was panic, nothing personal then or when the bank closed like many small town banks had to. It sat empty for years and then someone converted the inside to a machine shop. It sits empty again and for $24,900, anyone can buy it.

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Probably the most anticlimactic stop was in front of my great-grandfather’s old house. It’s been so lovingly renovated that I couldn’t recognize enough to tap into nostalgia. Instead we kept walking down the street, past an old gothic revival farmhouse that could only be suitable to vampires. Only on the walk back did we notice an identical gothic revival farmhouse right next door. I did not take pictures of either and deeply regret this, but you probably wouldn’t have either.

Our next stop was the final resting place of both great-grandparents and also Joshua Thomas, Parson of the Islands. He predicted the British fleet’s defeat in Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key and our national anthem. Also, he was born in a place called Potato Neck and his dad died from a dog bite and his stepfather was a drunken lout who forever turned young Joshua off alcohol. I now remember why book reports were such a challenge. It’s tough telling which facts are weeds because they all seem important.

I can tell you that cemetery was the biggest challenge of the day. My dad had provided a quaint hand drawn map to find the family plot but failed to warn us half the people buried on that island share the same last name.

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The eldest at least a half hour in
Three passes after I’d first given up, I found the plot and yelled so loud I probably woke Joshua Thomas of Potato Neck. We piled back in the car and drove until the road dead ended by crab shedding facilities at Wenona harbor. On the way back, I snapped this picture of a crumbling beauty an 1877 atlas designated the “Colored Church and School”.

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I almost drove past another (mystery) beauty, but if you only get to a place once in 30 years, you find yourself doing asinine road maneuvers so you can go back and take pictures while your kid swats at bugs only kids can feel because adults are old and taste terrible

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The next to last stop was at the public beach, where someone else had already written Pop-Pop in the sand and we collected a generous handful of tumbled sea glass. The funny thing about that is I’d had in mind to treat myself to something at the 5 year sober mark, but nothing seemed right and then I found it.

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The final stop of the day was a bait and sundry shop where I purchased candy bars for the drive back. I picked a Whatchamacallit, which I also hadn’t experienced in about 30 years and my kids thought I’d forgotten the name and was just calling it that. Some days you look back and find yourself feeling lost and disappointed. This wasn’t one of those days.

 

 

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