We bought some grapes today at the local farmers’ market. A bowlful of green, dark blue, purple, and red grapes, kissed by the country sunlight somewhere near Smithsburg, Maryland, has sat all afternoon on the kitchen counter. We’ve plucked one or two every half hour or so. They might last until tomorrow, but hardly another day. Sweet, succulent, just a tinge of tartness among the small red ones, they pop when I bite down on them, a sound so soft no ear but mine could hear it, muffled, secretive, fleeting.
|All that's left of them|
Thy taste, O grape! It flings me backward into the past about sixty years, at just about this time of early September. Mama absolutely loved grapes, craved grapes. No grapevine had she, but friends galore, some with grape arbors, some with vines strung along wires with posts, like a proper vineyard. One such friend was Hinson Sellers, whose grapevines seemed to me to fill up fields larger than our farm. Or maybe the grapes enchanted me just enough to think so. Mama, wrangling an invitation from Hinson and Liza to feast on their fruit to her heart’s content, would take me in tow. Out of her Chevrolet we would spill, greedy to get to the grapes save for the necessary small-talk with our hosts so as not to be unseemly in our haste.
We never took bags, buckets, or baskets with us, as I recall, only our hands and mouths. Hinson had several kinds. Tarheels and Concords among the reds, and Scuppernongs among the whites. In fact, Scuppernongs are the only whites I remember, because I favored them to the point of not caring much about any others, red or white. Big as small plums, thick-skinned, the color of the leaves already turning on their vines, they sweetened on my tongue as I rolled them after biting them, combing their seeds with my teeth before spitting seeds and swallowing grape-flesh. Mama did what I never could—she ate the seeds along with all else.
The grapes in our kitchen, seedless, are more convenient to snack on. I pop another, and another, as the pod grows steadily smaller. One or two more now and they will all be gone. But the memory they evoke will only linger in my mind. I will savor it like the grapes that stirred it, seeing again the Sellers’ small farmhouse, Mama’s blue Chevy, and the sight of Scuppernongs and Tarheels clinging on their vines waiting to delight us before the first frost.
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016