When I was a child, my parents used to take me to spend the afternoon with my grandparents, or occasionally to stay over. If it was a nice day--I remember them as always being bright days, but I'm sure there must have been days when we stayed inside and played pinochle--Grandma Paulie would take me down to the playground to run around, climb, and play on the swings. If the Good Humor truck came around, she might buy me a vanilla cone or a strawberry shortcake bar. The ice cream was a treat, one I asked for and enjoyed. But whether the ice cream man showed up or not, there would be an afternoon snack. It was always fruit. In the summer, Grandma fed me huge, yellow-and-orange, incredibly ripe and juicy peaches. Even then, I liked those peaches as much as the ice cream. Now, when I think of Grandma I think of eating a peach in the sunshine, and how the juice dripped down my chin and over my hands, and her pleasure in giving me something good to eat and showing off her granddaughter to the other women on the playground. My grandparents grew up in Russia, and there wasn't enough to eat there--they didn't talk about that, at least to me, but I could see it in how short they were, whose children are so tall, in the knowledge that my grandmother was one of thirteen children, but one of only four who survived, and in the way she fed us when we visited. When we were older, my grandmother lived by the beach, and my brother and I would go in the water, while our parents and grandparents sat on the beach, watched us, and talked--the grandchildren alone in the water, our family almost alone on the small private beach reserved for the senior citizens' housing, with a view of a bridge, and a wind coming in from the ocean--and then we would go upstairs and Grandma would feed us chocolate cake. She wasn't allowed chocolate then, but she got an Entenmann's cake whenever we visited, because she enjoyed seeing us eat it. But that was just cake, and you can get cake anywhere, from anyone. I haven't tasted a peach as good as Grandma used to give me in years, but I wonder if any peach of the present, even one ripe in the sun and fresh from the tree, could match the memory of my grandmother's peaches, when my tastebuds were young.
Copyright 1995, 1996 Vicki Rosenzweig
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