“I’ll pay you $50 for every one of these grapefruit rinds you scrape,” I offer the Bearded One, who sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper while I slave over Christmas fruitcakes.
“I have taken a vow of poverty,” he says.
I am momentarily amused, which is nice since I am surely tired of standing here creating this huge pile of pulp. Granted, he periodically takes the accumulation out to the compost pile, then dutifully brings the bowl back so I can fill it up again.
“Every year I manage to mess up one batch of citrus,” I say, and glance over at the measuring cup full of yellow and orange rinds that I overcooked in the syrup. This is the first time that’s ever happened. It’s all rock candy. A person could break a tooth. Last year I boiled rinds in preparation for the scraping, and then put off the scraping for several days and the rinds went bad.
“Yep,” says the Bearded One. He grins at me, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m a mess. This has all been dredged up by the stressful parts of an important wedding on the way. There’s lots of figuring to do. I actually managed to make our eldest daughter, the bride-to-be, cry last week with my careless thoughts on the sheer opulence of big weddings.
I apologized. And made it up to her, I hope. Floor cleanliness in our family is a genetic thing, and I purged myself on hands and knees. I scrubbed the hell out of her kitchen floor on Sunday morning while she unpacked boxes of clothes in the upstairs bedroom. The Bearded One put together a jillion-piece bathroom shelving fixture — the kind that straddles the toilet — and our son-in-law-to-be stained new closet clothes hanger rods a rich dark redwood color to match the 1913 woodwork of their new old home.
There I scrubbed and reflected on my sins. Now, I scrape and reflect some more — other family and other weddings.
On Friday my mother emailed me the transcript of a 1915 letter written by a relative and sent to my great-grandmother. It is kind of amazing that this great-grandmother was born in 1883 and our daughter was born in 1983. The letter is from my great grandmother’s cousin who was a Protestant Christian missionary in Annam (renamed Vietnam in 1945) and recently engaged. It’s six pages long and includes the background of the family furnishings in her modest little cabin, her interactions with her servant woman, her passion for her mission to convert all of heathen Annam to Jesus and translate the Bible into Annamese, and her loathing of the abusive Catholic priests from which she labored to differentiate herself.
I press the edge of my tablespoon into the soft, cooked pulp of the grapefruit quarter section, then scrape it down the length being careful not to rip the thin rind. You’ve got to scrape it really close or there’s no point.
Outside my window I can hear the Bearded One hauling last year’s finished compost in the squeaky old wheelbarrow over to the gardens.
My mind is still on our eldest child and my earlier faux pas in hurting her feelings.
And then the phone rings.
“OH, MOM! I AM SOOOOO HAPPY!”
“Thank you so much for coming and making everything in my kitchen work better!”
I can hear her sincerity, and feel her love. She’s not judging me. Why should I? That was a close scrape.