A foot in bubble gum out in a parking lot on an August afternoon– Walking into the boss’ office for a performance review with a toilet tissue streamer stuck to your shoe– Or a sneezing fit at the moment in a daughter’s wedding ceremony when the minister says, “If anyone here…”: Those three events rank high up on my “Please Don’t Let That Happen To Me” list. But they are far below my most dreaded personal horror: a major life transition that is forced on me by the actions of others. I’ve experienced my share of forced transitions and, truth is, I’m struggling to make it through one right now.
Growing up in the center slot between four brothers taught me survival skills. School athletics taught me more. And 41 years’ working experience taught me even more. But that vast array of skills seemed pitifully inadequate on the day I discovered that my partner, both personal and business, was a lying fake who had betrayed me personally and financially.
I made that discovery more than a year ago. And the fallout has been ongoing since and has not yet peaked. The result is a stomachache as bad as those I used to get as a kid when I sneaked into the family fruit orchard and ate green apples.
A bit of background:
My parents owned a farm in the Mississippi farming community of Trenton. Some of my most cherished memories from growing up on that farm were made in our fruit orchard. We had many varieties of fruits. Among them were five varieties of peaches, three of pears, four of plum, and one of apple.
We had an Asian pear tree decades before that fruit with the pimply brown skin found its way into produce sections of American supermarkets. Our Asian pear tree was brought from the Orient by the Mr. Roberts who’d owned the farm before my parents but lost it along with his money in the stock market crash of 1929. My parents bought the farm in 1933 from the bank that took it from Mr. Roberts. They borrowed a $1000.00 and then worked the farm for almost ten years before paying off the bank loan. But I digress.
While the Asian pears on our farm were exotic, and brought lots of attention to our fruit orchard, my favorite fruit as a child was the apple.
No, Mississippi is not the perfect place for growing apples. And the ones we grew in our orchard were not the roseate beauties grown in colder climes. Ours were as green as the first grass of spring. Hard as river rocks. And called “cooking” apples by my mother.
I loved those apples.
It’s odd, looking back, to realize that I knew an awful lot about fruit trees–especially apple trees– before I was old enough to go to school– first grade, kindergarten was not offered at Burns School, located a long, boring 5-mile ride from my family’s farm.
I loved traveling even as a kid, but that bus ride bored me to tears. Our bus turned up every road, lane and trail between my home and the school. Collecting all those kids took the better part of an hour, and if heavy rain had raised the level of creeks so much water was overflowing their banks and running freely across the gravel-topped, farm-to-market road, the ride took a whole lot longer. But I digress again.
I turned my attention to the apple trees in our orchard when the limbs began to swell with developing buds. And I kept a close watch out for the first blossom.
Apple tree blossoms are beautiful, aromatic, and big attractions to honey bees. The bees could be a menace and slapping them away without getting stung was an art that was developed young by kids who worked in fruit orchards. And all that was nice but paled in comparison to spotting the apples begin to form at the base of the blossoms. The anticipation I felt as I watched the developing apples on our trees was almost as high as that I felt as counted off the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
My mother watched the apple trees with equal interest. Every year, she warned me and my six siblings against eating raw green applies. They were, after all, fruit suited for “cooking” and not for eating.
Picking a bright green apple right off the tree, rubbing it to a high shine on a shirtsleeve and taking that first bite of the first apple of spring was a pleasure difficult to resist. The pectin content in the apples of my childhood was high. And the juice was so tart, that the juice of a Granny Smith would have seemed like honey in comparison.
Eating that first apple from a tree in our fruit orchard was a ritual. After putting a pretty shine on the fruit, my eyes closed automatically. I allowed anticipation to build until waiting another second was unthinkable. So, with eyes still closed, I raised the apple I‘d watched develop over too many seemingly endless days, opened my mouth as wide as it would go, and popped the apple into it.
Crisp apple skin split and a burst of juice, cool and tantalizingly tart with just a hint of honey, covered my tongue.
That, my friends, was sensory heaven and the stomachache that followed was sensory hell.
My stomach is aching right now with the same hellish feeling of having a fire pit inside it. But the cause is not a green apple.
It is sour grapes.
My decision to move from New Orleans, a city I loved, to Costa Rica, a country I love, was made because I believed the place my partner of 1999 and I moved to and later named Acropolita would be not just my 32nd permanent address but my permanent permanent address.
My dreams of living out my Golden Years in a tropical paradise, a wondrous four acres on which I was able to grow the same kind of apples as had grown in the fruit orchard of my family’s farm during my childhood, were trashed. The partner who had convinced me to move with him to Costa Rica deceived and betrayed me. Now, Acropolita is on the market. The decision to sell broke my heart and created an ache from hell in my stomach that began the day the “for sale” sign went up and does not show any signs of stopping.
These grapes that I am in the process of harvesting are indeed sour. I am working to rise above resentment toward my (I will not sink to the use of adjectives here) partner. And, being a positive person by nature (though I admit I am a bit of a bean counter, too), I expect to succeed.
As I struggle to find a path through this forced life transition, I accept the necessity to grapple with the painful rigors of broken dreams and stomachaches. But I refuse to eat a steady diet of sour grapes.
My plan is to dine regularly on high hopes and great expectations. And I am determined to reclaim my smile. That is the least I can do for my wonderful family, every member of which has been incredibly supportive. and for myself.
Eventually, I will allow myself to waste not even one more minute in wishing a permanent address in Hades for my former partner.
But that is for later– perhaps much later.
Right now, I’m as mad as those honey bees were when I batted them off an apple blossom back in my childhood vigils in the fruit orchard on my family‘s farm. And, I freely admit, I am sitting here at this computer, hoping that when my no-adjective partner gets back to his native country (one famous for its apples), that every apple he eats will create a fire pit in his gut of such heat it will make Dante’s inferno look like the friendly fire of a tea-light candle.
Okay, I’m stopping right here, right now. Otherwise I will begin spewing adjectives, appropriate ones dredged up from my earthiest farm-girl vernacular!