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Momma’s Orange Tree

December 8, 2008

My Momma is a good Southern woman.  She comes from East Tennessee, where as a child she cherished finding an orange and a peppermint stick in her stocking.  She would poke a hole in the orange, stick the peppermint stick into the hole and drink the fresh juice.  I guess that getting fresh oranges in the mountains was a big treat.

Now Momma and my stepfather live in central Florida on the beautiful St. Johns River, a far cry from Tennessee.  She loves to garden and grow things; things like tomatoes and broccoli and herbs and lettuces.  Meanwhile, my friends tell me to stick with silk plants, but that’s a different issue altogether.  She also has this great orange tree in her front yard.  Every year the blossoms produce hundreds of fruits that are, excuse the pun, ripe for the pickin’.

The neighbors even love this tree.  They benefit from it.  At Thanksgiving, Momma said that the oranges weren’t quite ready yet and a neighbor chimed in, “No, they’re not.”  He looked sheepish then confessed that he had picked one to use the zest.  We just laughed at his recreation of the scrunched up face he made when he bit into the sour fruit.Oh, what a difference a few weeks make.  By Christmas those oranges will be really sweet and they will be delicious.  I will drive there after midnight mass on Christmas Eve and wake up at home as I’ve done every year but one in my 39 years on this planet.  (That year was a fun sledding adventure with my uncle, yet another story for another day.)

For breakfast Momma will ask if anyone wants fresh orange juice.  “Yes!!!”  Someone goes out to get a handful of the heavy, cold orbs.  After a quick rinse, they get squeezed just before we sit down to eat.  Ahhhh…liquid sunshine!  Later on, after dinner, I will announce that I want some orange segments and ask if anyone else wants any.  Usually the answer is that everyone else is too full, but I know the score.

I collect an even larger handful than before, rinse them and start sectioning.  When I have a big bowl, I scoop out some for me.  About that time Momma or my stepfather comes into the kitchen.  I ask again “Do you want some?  They’re cold and they are sweet!”  Whichever one it is will try a section and then he or she succumbs to the flavor of these wonderful Florida oranges.  Then that one will shout “Honey!!  Missy sectioned some oranges and they are gooooood!”  Luckily I’ve already pulled down three bowls and three spoons, so we go sit by the fireplace and stare out at the river, eating our oranges.

It’s not quite as magical as opening up a stocking when you’re a little child, anticipating your special annual treat of an orange and a peppermint stick, but it is still part of our family’s ritual and I cherish it.

We also get emotional over fresh, homegrown tomatoes, too, but that’s another story for another day.

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