Friday, July 03, 2009

Jersey Peaches in a 1949 Hudson

Dementia must be on my doorstep. Far too often these days I find myself recollecting the 'good ole days'. As I enjoy my afternoon tea, ancient memories filter just behind my mind's eye.

A huge black 1949 Hudson slides into first gear and smoothly slips onto the roadway of a journey I took as a nine year old with my grandmother Hook and three of her sons, my uncles.

Five of us fit comfortably into the divan size bench seats. I sat in the middle of the back, which was so unlike the tiny rear seats of cars today. Those back seats were almost long enough for a six-footer to stretch out. There was plenty of room for my ten year old self to perch my feet on the hump that ran through the middle of the floor and still have room to wiggle as we drove from Detroit to Philadelphia the summer of 1949. Six hundred miles along the Ohio and then the Pennsylvania turnpike, the first two major highways built in America, the precursors of the Interstate system built in the succeeding ten years by the Eisenhower administration.

We were headed to the home of my Uncle Jack and Aunt Delores who lived in northern Jersey where Delores has grown up. Jack, my grandmother's youngest son, met her when they were both served in the Navy.

Interestingly, I don't remember any details of the family visit. I don't remember much about the Pennsylvania mountains. But, I do remember 'the peach', a furry deep red in some spots tinged slightly with the palest orange.

We bought a bag freshly picked from the trees at a road side stand soon after we left the turnpike. Driving along, we each slurped through one of the warm, pungent fruits. Mine was huge, sweet, and juicy; very, very juicy.

Do you know how it feels to use a tissue, a Kleenex, to wipe your face after you have just eaten a peach? As I share this memory, I can feel the minute hairs of the peach prickle my chin, lips and cheeks. Memories are magnificent when they are multi-sensational.

Peaches can be like lemons or ripe oranges with tastes that linger forever in tiny splotches caught between teeth, but the stickery little points of fuzz that covered my lips, my tongue, my cheeks for ever so long are what I really remember.

That sensation went on for hours, first on my chin, then on my fingertips, and finally on the palms of my hands as I waited for a gas station where I splashed cold water all over my face and hands to cleanse away the tiniest irritation.

I no longer have the flavour of the peach in my recollection, but that sticky sensation lasts in the back of my brain warning me to never, never again wipe my face with a tissue.