Peach Pit Mother
I realize my mother is a human being for the first time at the peach stand in the farmers’ market. It was early, both in the day and in the season: I had not yet shed the stench of my freshman year, and men unloaded cartons overfilled with fruit and vegetables from unmarked trucks. The cool night air had hung around, now and then carrying the earthy smell of the fruits of their labor. In the morning sun, my mother and I sipped drive-thru coffee and inspected vegetables that we wouldn’t know what to do with. We often indulged in the imitation of the bourgeoisie together, but for different reasons; I suspect that moments like these appeal to the young immigrant inside her, growing up watching white women fall in love amongst yams and sunflowers in Meg Ryan movies. I like to think I was there to disrupt the norm of young, married straight couples in an act of raging homosexuality, but I suspect that, like my mother, I was caught up in the cinematic elements of it all. Later, we would both take pride in letting people know we had braved the highway on the day with the lightest traffic, to molest produce that would later be thrown away, half-eaten or neglected to rot. It was for similar reasons my mother and I made previous forays into various religious sects and yoga, both hot and room temp.
Our excursion to the farmers’ market had come to fruition almost on its own and without discussion — it was as if my mother had taken a page from “How to Have A Relationship With Your Gay Son, For Dummies”. My time at college had left our relationship in an easy rhythm, and now our conversations were mostly heart-felt validations of each other’s choices — her parenting of my younger siblings, my education, whether or not we truly liked cauliflower. We united over Things To Do, always meeting, never coming from the same place. We tried new restaurants that opened between us and window-shopped, and no longer did we erupt into shouting matches across the dinner table to disrupt our dead-eyed stares and insatiable boredom. Now, trailing behind my mother as she weaves between food stalls and hipsters and tables of pressed juice, I miss having so little to talk about.
She stops under a green awning where a man sporting a formidable mustache oversees a mountain of flame-bright stone fruit, cartons of peaches and cherries and plums. I smile at the man, who glistens slightly where sunlight meets sweat, as my mother’s hand floats above the fruit like a metal detector, following her eyes to the juiciest, the ripest, the tastiest. Her hands are aged, fingers riddled with arthritis and in some places, if you really looked, crooked. I suspect that this is where my mother keeps her age, because her face has not changed since I was a child — it is still round, and taut, and preoccupied. Finally, she takes a peach in her hands and turns to me.
“So, I think I’m going to start dating.”
The peach peddler, too, is shocked.
My parents signed divorce papers on Valentine’s Day the same year I played an orphan in my Catholic school’s production of Annie, thus making it a big year for the whole family. We did not mourn their marriage for long, I think because my mother had lost her closest ally in the war against her children: our nanny. In the years that would follow, real tragedy would happen upon our family, and we would realize that we saved our grief for more important things. This includes, but is not limited to: unemployment, second-degree soup burns, puberty, my father’s next two engagements and my sister’s first boyfriend.
Now, in front of the farmer and the market and God and the fruit, my mother looked at me expectantly for an answer. Or maybe for permission? She hadn’t asked me a question, but the squint in her eyes demanded an answer, or maybe she was wondering, praying, that I understood, that I would say the exact right thing. I didn’t understand — I couldn’t. Still, in her palm, was the peach and its pit and its fuzzy skin, extended out to me.
In truth, I hadn’t considered my mother dating, or even considered her to be a person who felt things about people that led to dating. Suddenly, I knew how my mother felt the first night I requested she move my bedtime to accommodate Desperate Housewives at 9 pm. Had there been warning signs? Did I spend enough time with her? Is there a support group I can join? As the cold creep of Catholic guilt began to fester inside me, I realized that I do understand: she feels lonely. It’s the same lonely I feel, except older, and perhaps more profound that way. I realized then, looking into my mother’s eyes, that lonely is a feeling which persists, past marriages and diapers, through divorce and custody battles. I wondered, then, if she was lonely during my violin recital, my T-ball games, choir concerts, the night I went to Homecoming. And now, I wondered if her loneliness was all that was left, if I had eaten up the best years of her life, the juiciest, the ripest, the tastiest.
“Do you have a particular person in mind, or do you miss being disappointed by men?”
At that, the peach peddler closed his mouth, which had been agape at my mother.
I took the fruit from her, and let myself believe that for both of us, the peach was only just turning ripe.
Harrison Geosits is a peddler of creative nonfiction, and an all-around decent guy. His work has appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Wildness, and the North Texas Review. He is the editorial assistant for the American Literary Review and prefers wine from a box. You can follow him on Twitter at @HGeosits.
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Art Raphaelle Peele CC1.0