My brother and I spent entire summers playing in our neighbor’s walnut orchard just behind our fence. Scaling the trees in bare feet, fashioning bows and arrows from the flexible twigs lying about, pretending to be swashbuckling pirates while gathering walnuts to snack on. The yellow peach tree in the front yard was young enough that I could scale it alone and would often do so; curling myself up on a sturdy limb like a cat. I’d stare at the cloud formations in the central valley sky while savoring a giant fuzzy peach.
Most summers we tended a small garden in our backyard that would yield an abundance of zucchini and giant red juicy tomatoes, the kind that bring around those plump bright green worms. My brother and I ate more sugar snap peas than we admitted to my mother. Telling her it was a small harvest. She knew better but didn’t mind.
Looking back I miss those flavors and the fragrant memories born of the plentiful fertile earth. The smell of the alfalfa fields grabs me by the hand and takes me back to that summer I ate tomatoes straight off the vine from my grandpa’s garden. My mouth still waters at the thought of my mother’s buttery sweet peach cobbler, a heaping dollop of vanilla ice-cream to top off a warm summer night. The faint smell of bug spray in the air to keep the mosquitos from joining in the feast.
That little house I grew up in is still there but the peach tree in the front yard has been chopped down. The walnut orchard has been replaced with luxury town homes that are mostly vacant in a depressed working class economy.
Was it all a dream?
Did those tomatoes taste better because I was munching on them while see-sawing with my brother?
Was that slice of chocolate cake with garden fresh strawberries on top so delicious because I ate it in a tent in our backyard during my first slumber party?
Would that trail mix made with walnuts and almonds we gathered from the yard be as amazing if I was nibbling them during my lunch break instead of that time we pretended to be king and queen of England enjoying high tea together? Pinkies in the air. True Mexican royalty for a moment.
Will food ever taste that magical again?
Perhaps I’ll have another chance through your eyes Oliva. The thought occurs to me as I’m watching you pick the orange you want from our tree. Seeing you enjoy every bite, yes even the peel! As you exclaim, “it’s spicy!”