Sunday, August 9, 2009

'Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle'

In Junior High many moons ago, in a nondescript corner of the east side of Salt Lake City, a junior high english teacher introduced a book of poems to a bunch of pimply-faced and angst ridden youth: “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle.”

I don’t remember much about the book, though I think there was a poem inside with the same title.

But at the time, watermelon pickle sounded delightful. To me, it wouldn’t be sour or have that pungent vinegar taste--like cucumber pickles or pickled beets. In my mind, it would be sweet: almost as if you could pickle something with a simple syrup … pure sugar delight. To me, it was going to taste like the love-child of watermelon bubblicious and fresh cotton candy.

So I asked my Grandma if she had ever made watermelon pickle. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but I’m sure I got her all excited about the project; and as a result we agreed it would be a delightful undertaking for both of us.

So, she went to work. She bought the watermelon, but I was too busy to join her for the beginning stages. And then she cut the watermelon, and prepped the watermelon, and fixed the rinds, and eventually pickled the watermelon… without me. Not that I hadn’t been invited for each step of the process.Oh the invitation was there. But I was too busy (or so I thought).

Sometimes I picture her in the basement of our house (her home at the time)…in the kitchen where her canning and bottling and mending took place – slaving away over watermelon pickle her ungrateful, punk-of-a-teenage-granddaughter thought would be such a fun experiment. (I’m not proud of it – quite embarrassed actually...but blogging can be a great catharsis.)

It breaks my heart to see her in my mind's eye: prepping and working, delaying each step so I can be a part of the process... but I never showed.

Oh Grandma, I am so, so sorry. I was young, and stupid, and didn’t realize that someday you’d be gone.

After she had completed “our” project, she served the watermelon pickle for dinner on a special occasion following… it was probably a birthday dinner she had prepared for me or something.

I thought the watermelon pickle was actually pretty gross.
It wasn’t the candied delight I had pictured in my mind. It was sour, and intense and tasted very ‘pickled.’ But fortunately, she gave me another jar. And to my knowledge, it hasn't been opened; and I'm not interested in tasting it again. The lessons that jar provide have nothing to do with taste. I reflect on my gift of watermelon pickle, hope that Grandma has forgiven me, and remember that life is too precious not to cherish the time we have with those we love while they’re here.