Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Morning Thanks--Wild plums
Occasionally I'll read headlines, but I don't remember ever even picking one up. I like to think that I am above falling for those shameless grocery store tabloids and their batty titillation. But yesterday I fell to a check-out line special on Snickers bars--with almonds, by the way--just two for a buck and a half. I fell.
"Impulse buy," I said, excusing myself to the high-schooler who took my money.
"Well, we got ya', didn't we?" she said, showing no mercy. A couple of Snickers are in our freezer right now, awaiting a fate that'll come in bite-sized chunks. this Calvinist being what and who he is. I impulse-bought because I'd worked hard all day, maybe too hard for a man all too quickly approaching seventy years old. I'd earned a treat, I told myself, unCalvinistically. Besides, these Snickers had almonds too--almonds are health food. And they were on sale.
He who sups with the devil had best use a long spoon.
See that picture up top? I walk by these guys quite frequently, often enough to know that they're not having a good year. The wild plums aren't scarce this summer, but neither are they abundant or particularly beautiful. But they're here now, and whenever I walk by I can't help but think of a whole band of hungry Yanktons in the neighborhood, all of them just loving these things to death.
In a diet of pemmican and roots and tubers--and an occasional blowout buffalo roast--wild plums were better'n Snickers back in the 1830s. For a people without sugar, those plums were the only bit of sweet they knew. You can't help reading about the glory of glorious ripe plums in any history of their lives out here. Once upon a time, hungry moms and dads and kids gorged themselves when the plums came ripe, set their calendars by fruity juiciness. Once upon the time these plums, the ones I walk by and barely notice, were a perfect delicacy. Once upon the time their sweet tangy selves created a holiday.
Today, no one picks them. We've got sugar and corn syrup and Snickers, two for a buck and a half.
I suppose it's a species of nostalgia I feel when we walk past the trees. I let the fruit hang, and eventually they fall--no celebrations, no dancing, no kids sporting little beards of wet plum juice. Feels something like a shame to an old man like me.
And there's this too. An old friend of mine used to write about summer days when the plums would be ripe along the Rock River. Those were museum-quality boyhood stories, and every once in a while in the columns in the Doon Press he'd remember those running after those wild plums, symbols of a boyhood he remembered before polio put him into a wheelchair for the rest of his life, a boyhood he loved right there where he lived his entire span of years. Oh, those wild plums. Remember what that was like? he'd ask.
I don't. I grew up in the age of Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, and Snickers.
But I remember him when I walk past those plum trees. He's been gone for a long time now, but I remember the way he remembered the juicy blessing of those wild plums. Sometime this afternoon, when I break into that Snickers bar, I'll remember him too.
And I'll smile, and I'll be thankful for that smile and its lifetime of sources--wild plums, overjoyed Yanktons, and a little boy along a river not all that far away.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:22 AM