I was too late to rescue a dried-up, brown baby plant I discovered hidden behind a curtain on the hot kitchen windowsill. It had been there awhile. The rapidly aging peat cup that held the plant bought at the store was about to rupture.
Oh no, she neglected to plant this one, I thought. And now it’s dead. So what did we waste here?
I reached for the plastic tab facing the window, and when I turned it around I felt a little better. The label said cantaloupe. Oh, so no big loss. I felt relieved.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with cantaloupe. I can take them or leave them, myself. Meanwhile, everyone else around me, it seems, loves them. Why?
You see, I took to watermelon instead. From the beginning.
As a little kid I’d take a big ol’ slice of one of those big, long, green-rind watermelons and just dive in, taking huge mouthfuls and joyfully coating my cheeks and nose with watermelon juice. Then juice would pour down onto my bare belly. I loved it. That is till Mom had me go in and clean off.
I still love it. I’ll pick out a piece of watermelon hard candy when a variety is offered.
And a couple of months ago I was delighted to see in the store a new watermelon punch. I had to try it. The drink was OK - they mix a touch of watermelon with pear and grape juice. I now keep a carton of it in the fridge, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.
But Mom loved cantaloupe instead. About this time of year she’d start bringing in one or two a week. She’d slice some up for dinner, for lunch, even for breakfast.
“I want watermelon,” I said one time at breakfast. Mom and Dad just went on eating their cantaloupe, ignoring my silly notion.
I’d eat a chunk or two. Sometimes even a whole slice, especially if it was hot in our old house with no air-conditioning, which was not uncommon when I was a kid.
Cantaloupe would be the only cool item on the table as it sat alongside fresh-from-the-garden stringed green beans, pintos and corn bread.
“Don’t you want more cantaloupe?” Mom would ask. For the first time I considered the notion that I might have been adopted.
Sure, I may have been a little resentful that Mom loved cantaloupe and I loved watermelon. And so we ate cantaloupe.
To get me to change my mind they tried to get me to put salt on my cantaloupe, Dad’s preference. It made it worse.
It didn’t help that back in the old days they also called them mushmelons. They probably meant muskmelons but often it came out mushmelons.
I didn’t like the idea of eating mush. Fresh in my mind was an old “Little Rascals” TV comedy about feeding children mush and the awful faces the children made as they plopped a glob of it on the children’s plates.
I never had mush. And I knew mushmelons were not mush. But that TV image stuck.
To be fair, I must admit that if I get a nice, vine-ripened, sweet cantaloupe at its best, now that can be pretty good. The last time I got one of those, I think, was in the 1980s.
In these modern times they must pull them green far too early and ship them here from too far away.
I cut into a cantaloupe from the store these days and there is no fragrance. It smells sterile, like those store-bought roses you get at Mother’s Day that are very pretty but have no scent.
The taste of the store-bought cantaloupes is pretty sterile as well. I’d compare it to flavored Styrofoam.
These days I find that Mom’s successor in the kitchen loves cantaloupe, too. This time of year there’s usually one from the store lying around.
She’s tried growing a few as well. When she brings a fresh one in from the garden, she’ll cut open that cute little cantaloupe. A home-grown cantaloupe must be better, I thought. It wasn’t.
“When I married you I didn’t know you were so picky,” she’ll taunt.
So what’s it going to take to win me over to cantaloupe?
Has anybody thought of disguising a honeydew?
Correction: Last week I told you the public schools around here did not get started good until the 1830s. I double-checked and actually it was the 1840s. Sorry.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road