Thursday, 19 April 2007
The Tomato Patch Smoocher
By Virginia DeBolt of First 50 Words
My dad was the golf pro at a small golf course in southeastern Colorado when I was in 1st grade. The course had greens made of oiled sand and sat next to an alkali lake. We had a duck blind down next to the water where I made myself sick hiding out to try cigarettes. But this story isn't about learning to smoke. It's about teasing.
Down the road a piece there lived an endlessly fascinating family. They were interesting because there were so many of them and I was an only child. Plus there were kids that my mom called "his, mine, and ours," meaning the two parents had kids of their own when they got married and had even more afterwards. That seemed strange and exotic to me. Getting to go this house was a thrilling adventure.
This big family had a farm. Barns to explore with bales of hay to climb on. Cats whose job was to live in the barn. There were kids of every age. Two of the older ones: a boy of his and a girl of hers, were reputed to be in love themselves. My parents found this worth discussing but it didn't interest me much. A ride on the tractor would have been more fun. Or the chance to roam around in the big, rambling house that held them all.
The Mrs. didn't think all those kids needed to be underfoot in the house. She tended to chase us outside to play when the weather was nice. If it was a really hot day, she'd give us a salt shaker and send us out to the kitchen garden.
I recall one day when the 1st grader in the family, a boy, my agemate and playmate, was sent outside with me. We were armed with a salt shaker. We wandered down the rows of tomatoes. Big, fat, juicy tomatoes. When we spotted a perfect one, we'd pick it. The tomato's skin was warm from the sun. It was heavy and bigger than an apple in our small hands. We'd take that first bite, and while still savoring the hot burst of tomato juice in our parched mouths, we'd salt the next bite. With the sun burning our backs and warm, salty tomato juice running down our chins, we were in noshers heaven.
One of the older kids dared us to kiss. We were happy, we were having fun, we were sharing the worlds most wonderful taste delight. We did it. Little did we know what this would mean. Maybe he did. He was used to having mobs of big brothers and sisters to torment him. But I was clueless.
The teasing was immediate. Merciless. I grew redder than the tomato and even hotter than I had been. At first it was horrible. But after a while it became a sort of recognition: I was the tomato patch smoocher. I had a story; I'd done something bold and forbidden.
Eventually, I learned how to tease right back, give as good as I got. A valuable life lesson. Plus, I'm convinced smooching in a tomato patch is not a bad thing. I'd even recommend it, especially if no big brothers or sisters are watching.