I stood in the produce aisle, next to the tangerines, next to the oranges, next to the clementines. The bright oranges of the citrus fruit filled my vision. At first, it all looked the same; the fruit blended together, and I stood unable to distinguish a difference. All round. All orange. All covered with small bumps, rising and falling like valleys and hills, barely distinguishable.
I grabbed an orange with my left hand, hefty, firm. My right clutched a tangerine, soft; as I squeezed, I could almost feel the juices beneath the skin flowing. I sniffed the orange. A mellow scent reached my nose, barely tickling the senses – the skin was so think, I could barely smell the flavor, like it was hiding. I lifted the tangerine to my nose. The smell of the tangerine burst into my nostrils, rushing to my brain as though it contained a secret it desperately needed to share. The scent tickled my mind, until a memory burst into my consciousness, taking me away from the produce aisle and back to my former home in North Carolina, 2,000 miles away.
I was ten, almost too old to experience the rush of excitement that envelops every child on the morning of Christmas Day. Certainly, my excitement had to be contained. I was the youngest of five; my siblings were annoyed at being awaken at the early hour of 7:30, and they expected my excitement to remain contained. We sat in the hallway outside of our bedrooms. The door leading from the hallway to the living room remained closed before us. It would remain closed until my parents completed their last moments of preparation in the living room, adding last minutes gifts to our piles, making sure the stockings were stuffed; they, particularly my father, had to make sure every detail of our Christmas morning was perfectly prepared. We waited.
My oldest sister leaned over to me, “Emma,” she whispered, her drowsiness wearing off in place of inevitable excitement, “do you think you will finally get that dollhouse this Christmas?” A vision of a dollhouse jumped into my ten-year-old mind, but it was not a vision of an ordinary dollhouse, but of the dollhouse deluxe, a two-story, Barbie Dream Home, two bed and one bath, with a pink exterior, blue roof, and working elevator. My excitement bubbled over: “Oh!” I burst, jumping up as I exclaimed, “If I get a dollhouse, I am going to scream!” My siblings laughed jointly, my momentary lapse in reserve bring them all out of their affected attitudes of indifference and revealing their excitement beneath. We all began jabbering about our secret Christmas wishes when the door knob finally turned and my dad’s face appeared in the door.
“Merry Christmas!” he said as he stepped away. We rushed out. Laying on the couch, the floor, the fireplace, were our gifts, unwrapped, and ready for our reception. Maurine got a laptop! Andrea got a cooking set! Greg got a computer game, and Allen a toy gun. They all shouted and exclaimed their joy and gratitude, but their voices were for a moment shut out, as I let out a shriek. Before me stood a deluxe Barbie home, two bed, one bath, and a working elevator.
I returned to the present. The tangerine was still glued to my nose. A worker stood by, staring at my revere. I pulled the tangerine down and looked. Why, I asked myself, had this fruit brought such a memory to my mind? As the worker walked around me, I continued staring until it came to me. After the dollhouse, I had opened my stocking and inside, beneath the candy laid two tangerines. At the time, I had been disappointed – fruit was a lame excuse for a stocking stuffer. But that day, as I stood in the produce aisle, I was suddenly very glad for that tangerine, and as I put a bag of tangerines in my cart, I knew what my husband would be getting in his stocking that year.
~ Emma Wiley, Charlotte, North Carolina