Do I Dare To Eat a Peach?

End of the Season

End of the Season

Tonight at the grocery store, I sorted through a late summer box of peaches. Picked each one up and smelled it to see if it would ever get ripe. Checked the soft skin for signs of brown rot. Looked at the stem spot to see if it was a split seed. I placed six in a plastic bag and thought for a few seconds about a boy I’ve had a crush on as long as I can remember.

His name is Jeffrey. I won’t say his last name but I will say that I bumped into his wife a few months ago and told her I wanted to write this story and she said it would be fine. And besides, if I didn’t tell you his name, I couldn’t tell you the story about how when I was in third grade and Daddy found a little abandoned puppy in the middle of the highway, I named that puppy Jeffrey after my secret crush. Until the next day, when Daddy broke the news that the puppy was female so I changed her name to Jeffy.

Our grandmothers were friends. Our mamas have been friends since the first day of Kindergarten. His mother and my father were neighbors and thick as thieves when they were kids. He and my sister were born just hours apart and were close friends. I sat and talked with his mama last month and ate a slice of her heavenly pound cake.

I think the last time I saw Jeffrey in person was when he sang at my Pop’s funeral. (Yes, in addition to being good-looking, smart, and kind, he can sing too.) At the graveside service, when he came over to say hello, I got the giggles. It’s that bad. I went up to his sister and confessed, “When your brother is toothless and slobberin’ and 100 years old, I will STILL think he’s the cutest thing in the world!” She said she would too. And my sister concurred as well.

So now that I’ve embarrassed myself and Jeffrey by extension, let me get to why peaches make me think of him.  Back in the day, Jeffrey and I both worked at a peach stand in our home town. As the years went by, he took over the running of the peach stand and became The Boss.

One summer, oh THIRTY YEARS AGO, I worked for Jeffrey. I knew the responsibilities well. He would go to the farmers market to buy crates of peaches at the start of the week. Each morning, I’d sort through the peaches (it’s called “culling”) and throw the rotting ones or the split seeds into a box that swarmed with yellow jackets getting drunk on the nectar. We’d sell that whole box of culls for $5 to any ladies who were making jam that week. I’d take the good peaches and make up pretty baskets to display on the stand–$3 for the small, $5 for the medium, $7 for a peck.

One week, towards the end of the season, we got a lot of split seeds. That’s where the peach looks fine on the outside, but if you look up at the top, there’s a hole right down in the heart of it. Those will be rotten from the inside out. No good. Jeffrey told me clearly NOT to sell any split seeds, to pitch them in the cull box. Then he left. I started making baskets and EVERY peach was split. I sure didn’t want to let him down, but if I followed his instructions, they’d all have to be thrown out. I figured that people could get some use out of most of the peach, so I went ahead and sold them. The next day when I got to work, he was furious because he had had someone come back and complain about the peaches. I was crushed, but he was right.

He didn’t ask me to work for him anymore and I was heartbroken that I had let him down.

And here I am. Forty six years old and I still remember disappointing him whenever I buy peaches in the grocery store.

So Jeffrey, I apologize for that bad decision.

The other reason I wanted to write this is that I wanted Jeffrey to know how special he is. If I could pick a boy for my girls to adore, I would pick someone just like Jeffrey.

The other day, my friend Hester made a reference to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T. S. Eliot. It’s a poem narrated by a man who finds himself dithering into the end of his life, worried about how he is perceived as silly by those around him. He is coming to realize that he is not Prince Hamlet. His hair is thinning and he has “measured out (his) life in coffee spoons.” My favorite lines are these:

I grow old….I grow old….

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

Do I dare to eat a peach? Will I look silly if the juice runs onto my shirt? Will I become the topic of idle chatter?

While I was looking at those peaches in the grocery store tonight, and thinking of Jeffrey, and how I still feel bad for letting him down 30 years ago, and Prufrock’s peach, and the lessons of time, I realized this–we grow older but we only grow wiser if we let some of that stuff go. I have been carrying around that little kernel of shame about a mistake I made in 1984…since 1984. That’s just silly.

I am learning to apologize when I am wrong. Forgive myself when I am foolish. Be grateful for life-long friends. Run the risk of looking silly. Tell stories that remind people how special they are, still.

Dare to eat a peach.


31 thoughts on “Do I Dare To Eat a Peach?

  1. Dan Davis

    Reminds me of a crush I had on one of my older sisters friend. Only she and my sister both knew. They both remind me whenever we meet. The three of us worked together Sis was boss so I never let my friend down , only Sis who couldn’t fire me…


  2. christymimi

    How DO you forget/forgive something — big or small — that haunts you? They are causing my brain to be a bit split seed. Also, I hope you are considering putting some of your amazing stories into a book at some point. I would be on the pre-order list. 🙂

    1. Support

      Ha! I sure am planning to do that so I will put you down for one.

      I think “forgiving” is GIVING the problem back to the person who caused it. Confess your feelings and failings, then give it back. Or give it away.

      1. christymimi

        Hmmm…well I’d have to track down my friend from grammar school: I pushed her into some bushes. And a neighbor in Michigan who overheard me say something disparaging about them. And… Or try harder to forgive myself?

      2. Support

        Yeahhhhh, it’s think it’s time for you to give yourself a hug and remember that those things aren’t the sum total of who you are.

  3. Debbie

    Oh my goodness, we both had the same crush! I ran into him last year at a local restaurant and felt tongue tied.

    We also share the propensity to hold onto every mistake. After I made myself feel bad about some 20- year old gaffe recently, I asked myself (not out loud, but I probably should so it might take) why I don’t have equally intense memories about my successes.

    I can remember the look on the face of a friend when I said something thoughtlessly cruel 30 years ago in the lunchroom with crystal clarity, and still feel ashamed. I’m sure the moment is long forgiven as we’re friends to this day, but I still can’t forget and it pops into my mind’s eye and brings that shame to life.

    Grace is so easily given, now just to offer it to myself.

    Great post! But I’ll still fight you for Jeffrey.

    1. Support

      I will cut you. You can be second wife.

      That’s an excellent point. I can’t recall a single tiny kindness that I did at the same age, but I can remember all the little mistakes. UGH.

  4. Allison Wilcox

    Oh, the blessings of living close to where you grew up and knowing people all of your/their life. You have stories like this to tell. But then, there’s the curse of having people remember what you were like when you were young and foolish. Hopefully, those people won’t hold your faults against you nearly as long as you do yourself.

  5. onetreenotaforest

    Oh, Ashley ! This is such a perfect story. All of it. I can even smell the peaches now. Just this weekend, I was with a friend making pictures at the fairgrounds. Such fond memories. (PS: My crush on him began when I was in 3rd grade, and my mom was the high school study hall “teacher.” My sister and I would go to her room each afternoon in the high school building. I was so shy. He (and Clark) picked on us everyday. I don’t think I ever spoke a word — probably because I couldn’t even think ! 🙂
    Keep writing. It soothes my weary soul. Bless you, my friend.

    1. Support

      Oh, I forgot about Clark! I had a teensy crush on him, too. All those basketball players in their shortie shorts and tall socks!

  6. Bo Tidwell

    There were a lot of romances that grew in those peach stands in Gay, Ga. And I know who Jeffrey is, of course! Good one!

  7. Anne Massengale Todd

    Oh, Ashley! I’ve always admired that brain of yours….. so glad you are writing. the love between our families lives on and on and on. The next time you see your Dad, give him my love. So many wonderful memories !!! PS I was darn lucky I didn’t get fired too!

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      Hey, Miss Anne! I hope Jeffrey blushes until November over all these FRA people confessing to crushes!

  8. Alicia S

    This is so funny because I am someone’s Jeffrey. There was this boy in high school that was a year behind me. When I was a Senior, for graduation we were taken to Disneyland for Grad Night. We were allowed to invite someone with us and I invited this boy but for some reason I thought he was poor. Dreamy…but poor. So I asked my sister to invite him for me and to tell him that I would pay for his ticket. Since I was the one inviting him I felt it was my place to pay for him, plus again…I thought he was poor. She did so and he declined and that was that and I went to Grad Night alone and hung out with friends and had a wonderful time and never gave him a second thought. That was in 1976.

    Last year he tracked me down on Facebook. He messaged me and we began a conversation and eventually he told me that he wanted to clear up something that had been bothering him since high school. He said that my sister had told him I wanted him to go to Grad Night with me and that I had offered to pay for his ticket. He said that he felt bad saying no, but the reason he did so was because he was offended that I was going to pay for him. He was a man (boy) and men pay, not women, so he said no. But he had really wanted to go with me and he always regretted not going. (I had to think way deep to even remember this as I never gave it a second thought.)

    He said he would think of it often when graduations came around and when he would take his kids to Disneyland and he always wondered what became of me and felt guilty that he had not gone with me. We had a good laugh about it and came to the realization that since we both were divorced and each of us had had bad marriages who knows what would have happened if he had said yes. Maybe we would have had a great time. Maybe we would have fallen in love, maybe we would have married and had children and right now been growing old together and enjoying our grandchildren. But damn his machismo and damn my feminism! Anyway your story reminded me of this. How things from our past haunt us.

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