Summer sun sure adds sweetness. Long afternoons, glowing heat and tanned skin, and the true miracle of peaches.
If the Big Man spent time trying to find a lure able to coax yours truly deep into a stifling hot field for hours of sweaty effort (where sports and loving were not involved), summer peaches would be hook, line and sinker reliable. It’s that bad.
I suspect the family knows this quirk about me. At any rate, shortly after every Fourth of July it seems they all suddenly find themselves without a free weekend. Dental appointments crop up, along with important and unavoidable back to school shopping, tire rotation, and mystery tummy ailments, that make it impossible to drive any farther than the mall or beach.
I first met stone fruit with my own parents many years ago, when we’d pick and load lugs of them, warm from the trees, into the trunk and onto the seats of my father’s hot black Plymouth, and breathe their suffocating fragrance with the windows down all the way home. What followed were days of mason jars and bubbling great pots, juicy wet newspapers covered with pits and peels, my mother’s longest spoon, and perspiring forehead. We had a great green bureau down in the coolest corner of the wood frame garage, that held a year or more’s worth of that summer’s bounty: jams, jellies, and whole fruits, with golden lids neatly dated in black crayon in my dad’s hand.
And, there were my siblings, out on the summer porch, arms and bare chests covered with dripping, sweet flavor, unbelieving that a colorful bite could produce such sugary liquid mouthfuls.
“Good sun this year”, my Dad would say, and carefully remind us, every summer, that the trees and the farmers put real sunshine right in our hands. We were thankful.
“Good sun this year”, I say to my wife one morning, with the kids running out to play. She looks to the calendar on the kitchen wall, with it’s messy code of exes and times. I don’t mention I’ve already got the list of ripening and variety reports from a dozen growers out to a hundred miles in my back pocket.
“Peaches?”, she says, with a glance, like I’ve just proposed to try and win the car back in one last craps game.
“It’s good for the kids, healthy. And real, fresh fruit,” I remind her. She remembers the aisles and bins of wood-like substitutes they’re passing off at the supermarket. Maybe she knows about the hook, line and sinker, too.
And on the road with the kids laughing in the back, under the blue hot dome and out in the blazing white sun, I’m thinking about sticky forearms and that first, unforgettable, juicy mouthful.