Lullaby in the key of grapefruit

By Mir
March 26, 2011

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.


  1. Samantha

    I’m usually a lurker but this so, achingly reminded me of my mama who is half a continent away. I love your frank writing and this beautiful interaction made me chuckle-and then tear up.

  2. My Kids Mom

    The proper way to eat a grapefruit, when no one (outside of family) is watching: slice it in half across the equator. Then (must have sharp knife- I like serrated) slice into wedges, each half of the grapefruit into THIRDS. Yes, thirds. Because now you cram it up to your face to eat all the goodness, and if you do halves you will get it on (or up) your nose and fourths is just a waste of time. THEN, if you really want to entertain your inner ten year old, you put the rind in your mouth and say “Look at my teef!”

  3. Tenessa

    tears of joy. Really. My little Chickies aren’t tweens or teens or any sort of een. My Chickies are close to those chubby armed, dimple knuckled toddlers, but the fact is, they are fast developing, fast growing and I love the idea that I can, and will, see the toddler in them even when they are almost grown. Thank you. <3

  4. Alix D

    I am glad that I’m not the only one who eats grapefruit this way.

  5. ste

    Ah, the mess I had on myself when I’d take the membrane off a grapefruit for my toddler! Myself, I just cut them into eighths and eat them, membrane and all. Made the mistake yesterday of giving my kid one with membrane and it did not end well. Stupid me.

  6. Em

    Hey! I was laughing (and cringing at the word “membrane”. Ew) then you made me cry. No fair! Chubby arms and dimpled knuckles get me every time.

  7. Randi


  8. Nelson's Mama

    I still cut mine in half even at home because I LOVE mine covered in salt…like to slurp all that juice up with a spoon! My youngest daughter loves them with salt too and always begs for mine, we always cut one and share it and then go back and cut another…sweet rituals of life. Thanks for reminding me.

  9. Megan

    I am lazy. So I do the halved grapefruit, cut out the segments thing. But then I squeeze the life out of the half after and devour the juice because I too cannot bear the waste.

    Those flashbacks are so disconcerting (if sweet), especially when it’s my enormously tall, very thin son with his high cheekbones and I’m suddenly remembering him as a toddler with unbelievably pudgy cheeks!

    What a beautiful shared mother-daughter moment when she’s right on the cusp of adulthood!

  10. pam

    Well for goodness sakes you’ve made me cry…again!

  11. Varda (SquashedMom)

    That is just so completely lovely. My guys are only eight, but even still they are simultaneously big and little kids, so independent about some things yet still needing me to be “Mommy” for so much else. Sigh. Its all going to whirl by so fast, isn’t it?

  12. Little Bird

    That was hilarious!!! I’ll have to tell my mom to read this entry.

  13. Katie


    You know, maybe there’s a “our kids are kinda awesome after all” vibe going around because just last night, I realized that even with all TEH DRAMA, my 12 year old twin daughters are turning out to be great little young ladies. :)

  14. Beth R

    Just like Little Bird, I just HAD to send this one to my mom. Thanks for the sweet smile, Mir!

  15. amy

    This honestly brought tears to my eyes. It’s so freaking hard when they’re little, and your IN it, and then now? Looking back? I miss it so terribly it makes my heart ache. You’ve captured this perfectly.

  16. suzie

    I can so picture having the same scene with my 14 year old. Yet, despite that, it still had me tearing up (which isn’t common for me). So much fun. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Lynn in Mass

    Very cute story. I agree on how quickly time can fly with kids. My daughter just turned 10 and every year around her birthday I flip back in her baby book and remember what a rough start she had and how far she has come.

  18. Melody

    This reminds me of oranges! My mom used to peel them for me or I wouldn’t eat them. The peeling under my fingernails squicked me out!! She would peel them for me every time. Now my own daughter will not eat orange anything, not even candy. I am waiting for the day that she will eat them if I peel them for her :-)

  19. Kelly

    Too cute. Will we always see them as little ones?

  20. Kristi

    Awwww. Who knew a story of eating a grapefruit could be so enchanting!

  21. liz

    Laughing and sobbing, and now hugging my 9 yo.

  22. Anna

    *sniff* My BAYBEE! Oh, gosh, Mir. *sniff*

    But this is good confirmation that I’m DONE, because my next thought is not “Oh, we need another!” but “Gosh, I’m gonna miss this.”

  23. Gillian

    My toddlers favorite thing to eat is whatever I’m eating. I thought it was just a phase!

  24. Laurie

    ahh this one made me tear up :)

  25. Kirsten

    Oh how I miss the days when I could make my mom start to laugh just by looking at her in a certain way…. and she would tell me to stop, and of course I wouldn’t…. so it would be a giggle fest for about 15 minutes… just when we’d settle down, I’d look at her again… and away we’d go…

  26. Cele

    Oh I will peel and relish membrane (please telll me it’s chockfull of fiber) and all. Totally yum, and dietetic.

  27. andrea

    Love it!! Thanks for sharing.

  28. Stacy Q

    Oh that is FABULOUS!!! That made me giggle! Your cute funny crown princes!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing!!

    And now I want a grapefruit SO VERY VERY BADLY!!! And I don’t have any! So now I have to run to the STORE!! :-(((

  29. Shannon

    I have my little toddler baby bird and of course I always have to share. *most* of the time I don’t mind. :o)

  30. Celeste

    Well, way to go, Mir. Ya mean me mist up there. Part of the reason is, my chubby boy-child with the round face and pointed chin suddenly turned 16 the other day and is no longer that little guy who looked like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” I came across his favorite stuffed toy last week. The toy he would not leave the house without, looking so lonesome sitting on the dresser. Ahhhh crap, here I go again.

  31. Little Bird

    I told my mom about this, while we were in the car, I sort of paraphrased everything as I best I could. She got a kick out of it. And while at the grocery store, she bought grapefruits.
    Just think of the power you have!!!!

  32. Christine


    It did my heart worlds of good to see that, after so many rough patches with Chickadee, you have moments like this to carry you through. I may have even teared up. I’m so happy for you – you are such an amazing woman with a wonderful perspective on life and all of its challenges. Real, honest and refreshing. You’re just brilliant and wonderful. And pretty too, I’m very sure.

  33. Mom again

    Next time things are rotten, look her dead in the eye and say, “Grapefruit”.

  34. Karen

    These are the days to remember :-)

  35. leftofordinary

    I have 2 girls and have those moments where I look at them and get a flash of baby/toddler etc. Wah! Thanks for sharing.

  36. Andrea

    Cause for delurking!
    Mir this is so incredibly beautiful!! I’m not even a Mom yet, and I’m not much of a crier, but there may or may not be a little glistening tear in my eye. Maybe because I’m a daughter.
    Good stuff, indeed.

  37. Daisy

    Foodies, maybe not. But oh, the memories.

  38. Flea

    Oh Mir! Delightful!

  39. Heather

    Well that was just all beautiful and poignant and, d’awwwwwww.

  40. chris

    I love it. That was beautiful. The Chee-yee-yee did me in though. I miss those cute things babies do. (But only the cute things not the rest of it ;-))

    I have always cut my grapfruit in half and eaten with a spoon. With sugar sprinkled on top.

  41. Aimee

    *wipes away a tear*

    that was really beautiful. AND funny. My favorite combination.

    I am with you on the grapefruit thing. Cut in half and carefully sectioned in polite company. Peeled and re-peeled and devoured with all the finesse of a drunken gorilla when by myself.

  42. Stephanie

    can i just say you SUCK! and i mean that in a very nice way. i have one of those (chee-yee-yee’s) myself… a girl-woman-almost-teen… and i’m in tears… from laughing and from the little crack in my heart… i so FEEL this.

  43. Rosie

    That’s exactly how my 3-year-old phrases questions: “I can have…?” “I can do…?” I love it and hope she never grows out of it, in my presence at least. It might a little less adorable issued as a command from a 16-year-old’s mouth.

  44. kim

    Hurray for the moments that make it all worth it!

  45. Katie in MA

    Never mind the water streaming out of my eye. I’m sure you just squirted some grapefruit juice in them is all. They are NOT tears. I can have a tissue?

  46. Nancy

    Thank you for this post…I will hug my toddler when I get home. Right now I am looking forward to reminiscing about her when she is a teenager- she is NOT easy. Thanks for reminding me that I will look back on this time with fondness one day. Maybe by then I will have forgotten about and recovered from the 2 hour rage-fests! (One can only hope.)

    FWIW, I like my grapefruit cut in half, sprinkled with sugar, with every last drop squeezed into my mouth after eating the pulp!

  47. Sue @ Laundry for Six

    Aw, Mir! What an awesome way to turn an annoying tween moment into something beautiful!

  48. Amy - Parenting Gone Mad

    Hilarious! I love pink grapefruits and I cut mine, sprinkle it with sugar and scoop it out, bit by bit with a spoon.

    Great writing, I really felt like I was at your dinner table, watching the 2 of you rolling on the floor with laughter.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest