I was actually going to write about this yesterday, before I read Chris’ excellent post about sharing the good stuff, but yesterday I ended up in bed most of the day with a stomach thing, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. (You’re welcome.)
So now you get it today and I totally look like a follower. Thanks a lot, Chris. Sheesh. (I kid! I am also still a little woozy, so, you know, cut me some slack.)
A couple of nights ago it was just me and the kids for dinner; Otto was stuck at a work thing. We’d gotten home late from our various activities, and I threw together a quick dinner for the kids and we sat down and I kept trying to hurry Monkey along because it was getting late and he still needed to shower before bed and I didn’t want him up too late. He obediently sucked down his food and headed upstairs, leaving Chickadee and me at the table.
I decided I wanted to eat a grapefruit, because last week I bought a giant bag of them and I’ve been working my way through them one giant mess at a time. And here we have to pause to discuss the proper method of grapefruit consumption.
The thing about cutting a grapefruit in half and scooping out the segments is that it’s fairly tidy—save for the occasional rogue squirt of juice in the eye—but even with a fancy grapefruit knife and/or serrated grapefruit spoons, I feel like you end up leaving an awful lot of the fruit in the rind. Now, if I’m going to eat a grapefruit in polite company, that’s fine. I’ll eat it that way.
But if I’m going to eat a grapefruit in the comfort of my own home, I am going to dissect it like a chimp so that I can eat the whole thing. It’s not that the GOAL is to eat it like a primate, it’s just that that’s sort of how it works out. It’s a messy endeavor. First I peel the grapefruit and put the skin in the compost bucket, then I put the now-bald grapefruit into a bowl and sit down to begin dissecting. If you’ve never eaten a grapefruit this way, the mess is because, unlike, say, oranges, the membrane on grapefruits is tough and doesn’t taste very good… so the goal is to open up each individual section and eat the fruit trapped between the membranes.
As I stood at the kitchen counter peeling my grapefruit, my darling nearly-teenage daughter reacted as if she was a toddler and I’d just pulled out a giant bag of lollipops. “Grapefruit!” she declared, delighted. “I love grapefruit! I want grapefruit! I want some of THAT grapefruit!” I think she may have even actually clapped.
“There’s a whole bag over there,” I answered, amused by her reaction. “You’re welcome to have your own.”
“No, no, that’s okay! I will eat that one!” She bounced slightly in her seat, pure joy and mischief, clearly eager to see how I would handle this.
I finished peeling and sat back down at the table with her. “Um, no,” I said. “This one is mine. You can have your own.”
Undeterred, she continued to bounce. “Okay, we can share it!” Like I hadn’t said a word. She stuck out her hand, the queen waiting for her minions to peel her a grape. Or, more accurately, awaiting a de-membraned section of grapefruit.
I squelched a giggle as I leaned forward and dropped a kiss on her outstretched hand. She made a big show of peering quizzically at said hand until she noticed that I had begun dissecting and eating my grapefruit and hadn’t handed her any.
“THAT IS MY GRAPEFRUIT!” she screeched, in mock exasperation.
“This one is mine. You are welcome to HELP YOURSELF TO YOUR OWN,” I told her, around a bite.
“YOU ARE EATING MY GRAPEFRUIT!” She continued, horror mounting. I smiled and her and chewed as slowly as possible, possibly even making little “mmmm” noises. “I can have some? I CAN HAVE SOME!” She stuck her hand out again. Bounced again in her seat. And flashed me that smile, oh, that giant, beguiling smile. “You are my mommy and you want to share it with me because you love me,” she added, with a well-placed flutter of her eyelashes.
Well, she had me there. I swallowed. I sighed. I burst out laughing at my woman-child, nearly as tall as I am, swaying in her seat, arm outstretched, palm up, begging me for a piece of my fruit because she was too lazy to get her own, and then justifying herself by playing on my completely predictable maternal instincts. (Translation: She had me at “mommy.” I can’t tell you the last time I heard THAT.)
I tore off a section and placed it in her waiting palm.
“HOOOORAAAAAY!” she cheered, and popped the entire thing into her mouth, membrane and all.
“You have to peel—” I didn’t get to finish, as her face contorted from the unexpected bitterness. She spit it back out into her palm and looked at it. Then she looked at me, looking at her.
“That was DELICIOUS!” she declared, reaching back into her mouth with her free hand to scrape some remaining pith off her tongue. I started laughing so hard that the dog became extremely concerned. But Chickadee was undeterred. “I just think I’ll peel it, now, though,” she continued. And then she started laughing, too.
We laughed until we cried, and finally we trickled off into giggles and I resumed eating my grapefruit and Chickadee peeled the section I’d given her and ate that, dropping the membrane into my bowl.
“I can have some of that grapefruit!” she announced, the minute she’d swallowed. She stuck out her hand again. “I can have some of it. Now. Please. Give it to me.”
I rolled my eyes. “Why don’t you have a WHOLE GRAPEFRUIT TO YOURSELF?” I asked her. “We are not experiencing a grapefruit SHORTAGE. You don’t have to share with me.”
“No, yes, actually I DO,” she assured me, waving that outstretched hand closer. “I do and I am and I can have some of that grapefruit now.” She giggled and then I giggled and then I gave her another piece.
The third time she did it I didn’t even bother to argue; I just handed her a piece. But as my fingers met her hand, I blinked and saw her as a toddler, all wispy hair and dimpled knuckles, chubby arm outstretched for whatever I was eating, squawky little voice demanding, “Chickie have some, have some?” (Except she couldn’t pronounce her own name, so it came out more like “Chee-yee-yee” which was an endless source of amusement to us at the time. It was as though she realized she wasn’t getting the consonants right, so she added an extra syllable for good measure.)
“You know,” I said, just casually, as I turned back to extracting grapefruit flesh, “you used to do this when you were little. You always made me share, and if I tried to give you your own you would become enraged. It had to be what I was having.”
“Well DUH,” she answered, “it tastes better if it comes off your plate. Obviously.”
I didn’t say anything. I carefully extracted the last section, and Chickadee leaned towards me with her mouth open like a baby bird. I smiled at her. My beautiful baby girl.
And then I popped the last bit of grapefruit into my mouth.
“MOM!” I blinked; feigned surprise at her exasperation. “You are MEAN.” I nodded in full agreement. “YOU ARE STARVING YOUR CHILD,” she continued.
“You can HAVE YOUR OWN—”
“LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” We fell into helpless giggles once more, sticky with grapefruit juice, lightheaded with how quickly 13 years can go by.