I pulled the aluminum woven folding chair out of the shade and into the sun, positioning myself just under the bow of the branches of the orange tree. The friction of hollow metal against concrete instantly took me back to my mom and dad and their patio in Michigan in the summertime. The stickiness of humidity that would turn my head into a ball of curls that were impossible to run my own fingers through. Crickets rehearsing and rehearsing, every night, sometimes as a duet - sometimes as a full choir. Sweet corn on the cob drenched in salted butter that immediately softened when it hit the July air. The kernels popping with each bite, sending the candied taste of dog days through my veins. There are two kinds of butter people: Those who keep their butter in the refrigerator so it’s always hard and those who keep it out in a covered butter dish, so it’s soft and ready to spread. We were refrigerator butter people. Salmonella or something I’m sure that my mom was afraid of. Trichinosis. The thing you get from undercooked pork. Botulism. Isn’t that the evil that would befall you if ate something from a dented can? Those were words that were thrown around a lot during my childhood, making me scared to eat anything that wasn’t candy. I never heard of anyone getting Trichinosis from Bub’s Daddy or Lik-M-Aid.
I’d hear the chair in its high-pitched scratch drag along the cement as my dad shifted it in a circle to follow the sun. He loved reading books on the patio in the sunshine. My mom, on the other hand, chose the hermetically sealed comfort of her home and the crushed velvet green sofa that she’d worn a groove into on the right side (or couch left if we were using theater terms) from sitting there so much. Her, with her hand-held slot machine. A smart phone before smart phones were invented. The constant whirrrrrrr and spin of the wheels. My mom’s thumbs pressing the buttons down, sometimes without looking at the machine, but instead, her eyes glued to her “stories” on TV. It would dinggggg if she’d win. But winning wasn’t what she was after. It was the pushing of the buttons and the spinning and the repetitiveness that replaced crocheting that she once did so long ago. Afterall, how many afghans can one own?
So when I saw the coral and white lawn chair (on sale!) at Target, without hesitation, I tossed it into my shopping cart, wheeling back around to the aisle to pick up a companion because everything is better in twos.
The back patio was now their home. I flipped open both chairs and sat them side-by-side. One for me and one for a friend should anyone stop by, or for my feet should I decide to recline under the blue sky. I don’t do that enough in California. Maybe because we take the sun for granted since it makes an appearance just about every day. Whereas in Michigan, we’d be out on the rooftop at the crack of 50, aluminum foil under our heads, slathered in baby oil. The charcoal-like smell of burnt skin alerting us that we were on our way to brown goddessness. I haven’t smelled burning summer skin in so long, yet my memory instantly recognizes it, wishing for just a hint of sizzle to take me back to a time when we’d sit by the pool at Bette Morton’s house, waiting for her mom to make us liverwurst sandwiches.
Mrs. Morton was a hard butter person, too. She’d spread it on Wonder Bread (not really spreading so much as leaving chunks of butter burrowed in holes that were never melted but needed to be chewed). Then she’d top the halves with circles of liverwurst, slap them together and cut them on an angle. Two perfect triangles of good ol’ Midwestern comfort. I’d hold my nose when eating it, to avoid the stench of smelly socks meets processed bread. But I liked the texture and taste. Mushy and gluey with hints of hot dog minus the ketchup. And love. You could definitely taste the love. Occasionally, between bites, my tongue would have to slide the Wonder Bread off of the roof of my mouth, where it would spackle itself into my palate.
Back in California, now seated atop my new coral chair, it was only March, but certainly enough time to start contemplating bathing suit season. So I sipped my greens and cherry and ginger smoothie. The spice clearing the way for the earthiness of the arugula and syrupy undertones of the frozen, dark cherries. While staring at the oranges in the tree, not wanting to pick them for fear that - not fully weaned - I’d yank them from their mother prematurely, I wondered why I hadn’t noticed the verdant fragrance of the orange blossoms until now. How long had they been there? Why hadn’t I been taking in this scent every day? The ground below, littered with ivory petals, was a sign that they wouldn’t be around much longer. I caught this moment just in time.
Had it not been for my chair, I wouldn’t have had this flash of pure joy that I’d bottle if I could, but that probably wouldn’t even come close to the ten minutes of wonder I experienced being immersed in the memory’s beauty that Spring afternoon.