#AtoZChallenge April 17, 2018. Orange Trees
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
“Do you have enough, Liv?”
Olivia Harding ignored the sarcasm of the octogenarian approaching her at the After Light Recreation Center.
Hortense Oakley continued her slow path to the table where Olivia sorted oranges culled from trees in Twilight, Arizona.
“Sure are a lot of oranges,” the old woman said as she picked up a discard. “Why do you need so many? There’s more than enough to share.”
“Do you want some?” Liv asked, tired of the invasive questions of the elderly who thought they had the answers to everything.
Not that I can claim differently. She often had to bite her tongue from interfering in her daughters’ lives.
“Me?” Hortense sniffed and dropped the fruit. “They’re too sour for me.”
“You and everyone else, which is why the donations outnumber those that are taken home.” She glared at the old woman, daring her to punch holes in her logic.
“But what are you going to do with them?”
Positive anything she said would be misconstrued, Olivia shrugged. “You’ll have to wait until Thursday’s Flea Market.”
She picked up the box of oranges and carried them to her Honda.
On the drive to her condo, she noted the rows of orange trees lining the streets. They looked like green gumdrops on white trunks, the bark whitewashed to prevent sunburn.
What a waste, she thought as she noted rings of dropped fruit on the ground.
If only the developers had planted sweet oranges. But, sensitive to citrus growers in the area, Twilight’s developers had opted for the less commercial sour variety, resulting in a pretty landscape but an annual wasted crop.
Liv pulled into the alley behind her condo, surprised to see her granddaughter’s Nissan truck parked in the visitor’s space.
“Sam?” She opened the service door between the garage and hallway. Balancing the box of oranges, she walked through to the kitchen.
“Granny!” The seventeen-year-old looked up from her laptop on the table. “You’re home.”
“Obviously.” Liv set the box on the island. “Are you visiting or staying?”
“Both.” Sam dropped a kiss on her grandmother’s cheek. “I’ve exams and no place to study that’s quiet.”
She hesitated, and Liv raised an eyebrow in question. “And?”
“And Mom’s after me to do her stuff.”
“Like watching your brothers and helping out around the house and running errands?” She couldn’t fault Erica for insisting her children accept responsibility. “Does she know you’re here?”
“Sure. You don’t mind, do you?”
“It’s not the first time you’ve stayed. Why would I mind?” She’d set up a Murphy bed in the second bedroom for her grandchildren. “I won’t bother you. I have my hands full with all these oranges.”
Sam peeked into the box. “What are you going to do with so many?”
“Marmalade.” Liv washed her hands and pulled out a cutting board and knife. “Lots and lots of marmalade.”
“For gifts?” Sam’s eyes widened. “Granny, you know we love you, but don’t work so hard for us.”
“Not for you.” Liv patted her on the cheek. “I’m going to sell it at the flea market and donate the money to some families I know who are having a rough time.”
“That’s sweet. Can I help?” Sam picked up an orange.
Her initiative impressed Liv. “I though you had to study?”
“Sure, but I need to take a break. What do you want me to do?”
Liv gestured to the fruit. “We’ll be using the peels, so these need to be washed. Then we’ll cut out the pulp, remove the peel . . . Never mind. I’ll explain it as we go.” She could use a helping hand, and the prospect of cooking with her granddaughter and passing along her skills and recipe filled Liv with pride.
Sam worked with her through the weekend, sometimes disappearing into her room, sometimes leaving to meet friends, but always gravitating to the kitchen. Together, they peeled the white pith from the pulp, saving it and the seeds in a cloth bag to thicken the marmalade. Sam chopped the peel into small pieces that Liv boiled and drained and let sit overnight to release more of the fruit’s bitterness.
The next day, she added pulp and sugar to the peels and boiled the mixture until it jelled. By Thursday morning, she’d packed dozens of jars into boxes.
“Can I come with you?” Sam asked over an early breakfast.
“School?” Liv asked. It wasn’t her job to discipline Sam and keep her on track, but she’d be remiss as a grandparent if she didn’t ask.
Sam shrugged. “It will be my economic lesson—surplus and demand.” She flipped open her laptop and pulled up a chart. “See? I’ve made a spreadsheet of your expenses and projected income.”
Liv leaned forward to read the numbers. “Impressive, but I’m not in it for the profit.”
“No, but it’s nice to realize you’re not sinking your Social Security check into someone else.” Sam shut the computer. “Let’s go. I’m ready to see how we do.”
Liv smiled at her use of “we”. The teen had helped more than she’d expected, and she took heart in how invested she’d become in the project.
The flea market took place every Thursday in the parking lot at the Eventide Rec Center. Liv had borrowed a display table and chairs from her neighbor, Ed Robinson. Sam had offered to make signs and decorate their stall. As the nine-o’clock opening drew near, they hustled to have everything in place.
Trade was brisk. A weekday morning didn’t stop the residents of Twilight, most of whom no longer worked, from attending their favorite flea market. Vendors set up their stalls, beach umbrellas kept off the Arizona sunshine, and the smell of fry bread and corn dogs permeated the air.
Hortense Oakley made an appearance, as Liv knew she would, as four o’clock and closing time approached.
“I see you made something of those old oranges,” she sniffed, picked up a jar, and held it against the light as if inspecting it for flaws.
“Of course. Not everyone thinks our oranges are a waste.” Liv kept an eye on Sam, curious about her reaction to their exchange.
Hortense pushed the jar onto the table, upsetting the asymmetrical design Sam had made. “You’d be better off using regular oranges, but maybe you like using free discards instead of paying to keep the Florida growers in business.”
Liv leaned back, enjoying herself. “Perhaps you don’t remember the hard frost they had this spring? They lost ninety-percent of their crop.”
Hortense’s eyes narrowed. She did not like being bested. “So you’re cashing in on their misfortune?”
Liv smiled and turned to her granddaughter. “Would you like to do the honors?”
Sam’s look told her exactly what she thought of the octogenarian’s attitude. “With pleasure. Oh, and Granny? Mic drop.”
She opened her hand as if dropping a microphone then passed a flyer to Hortense.
All profit from today’s sale of
Made from Twilight oranges
Will be donated
To the owners of orange groves
Devastated by spring frosts
Near our sister city in
Twilight Center, Florida
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#AtoZChallenge April 18, 2018 Pickleball
Pickleball champion Leon’s competitive spirit costs him the big one.
Until then, blessings,