Member Monday: The Smell of Ripe Tomatoes by Esther Auerbach

Welcome back to Member Monday.  We continue with our June theme “fathers” and I’m happy to welcome Writers Forum member, Esther Auerbach.

The Smell of Ripe Tomatoes

by Esther Auerbach

As one of eight children I rarely got to spend time by myself with either of my parents, so when I did it was very special, even if it involved nothing more than accompanying them on an errand.  Such was the time when, on a beautiful late afternoon when I was about eight years old, my father took me on a short trip on horseback to pick tomatoes in a nearby town.

I do not recall the reason why he took me instead of my sister Rosa, just two years older than me, or my brother Manuel, two years my junior.  Because we were so close in age it usually took some negotiating and even some arguing among us kids to determine who’d get to do what, especially the most coveted tasks; but for whatever reason on this particular day there was none of that.  Perhaps Rosa and Manuel were not home; or maybe my parents, in their infinite wisdom gained after all their years of practice, knew just how to time my father and my exit without creating a fuss.  All I know is that as dad and I rode our horse on that lazy afternoon, he on the saddle and I behind him holding on to the back of the saddle, I felt very special listening to the childhood stories that he loved to tell.

Just as the sun was setting dad led our horse into a large field of tomatoes in varying sizes and hues of green and red, and all at once we were greeted by the sweetest fragrance emanating from the field.  As we filled the two huge baskets that the owner of the farm talked my dad into taking so we could resell them in town, we savored the delicious fruit with no regard for the mess that the juice was making as it spilled down to our elbows.

Night had fallen by the time we made our way home through the back roads.  The trails were so narrow that the horse had a hard time getting through some of the gates as he carried the two enormous baskets on either side; and all along dad and I followed behind, guided by the moonlight that shone through the branches of the trees.

I never told my father how meaningful that short little outing was for me, and for all I know he had forgotten it by the time he died.  I’m sure that, from his point of view, there was nothing particularly remarkable about it; but as a middle child in a large family, having my dad’s complete attention for several hours turned that experience into one of the nicest memories of my childhood.  Even today, several decades later, I feel a special closeness to my dad every time I smell a freshly picked tomato, and I immediately think back to that very ordinary, yet very special afternoon so long ago.

EstherAbout the Author: Esther Auerbach has been writing mostly for herself for many years, though she wrote a weekly column about real estate issues for a small newspaper in Central California for several years.  These days she enjoys writing short stories and poetry.

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