I’ve been almost living on watermelon this summer. When I was a kid, we didn’t have watermelon that often, and when we did, it came from a farm stand or the back of someone’s pickup truck. We would take home the huge, striped-green melons, and one of the adults would slice them open as the final event of a summer party – the kind that began with splashing at the beach or in a backyard pool, or even just running through sprinklers in the back yard (be careful near the rose-bushes, you might step on a thorn).
We ate watermelon, back then, without caring about the sticky mess that comes hand-in-hand with luscious pink pulp and annoying black seeds. “You take those outside,” my grandmother would command, passing out wedges to my cousins and me. “Eat them in the grass.”
And we would. We’d stand around the back stoop (it really wasn’t a full porch) or sit on top of the redwood picnic table, and let the watermelon juice run down our chins and onto our shirts. Inspired by a mutual love of Judy Blume books, we’d stick watermelon seeds to our foreheads, give them the names of boys we liked, and wait for them to fall off. The last one would be the boy you married, but try as I might, I never did manage any scenario in which Shaun Cassidy swept me off my feet. (And yes, I do mean Shaun. I was born in 1970 – old enough to watch The Partridge Family in reruns, but too young to appreciate David. And Shaun was Joe Hardy on TV by then.)
Today, when I eat watermelon, I’m less primal about it. In fact, I’m almost prissy. We buy organic, seedless watermelons, take them home, cut them into wedges, remove the rinds, and store them in large plastic containers in the fridge, serving bowlfuls of fruit as dessert or a snack all through the summer. We use ceramic bowls and real forks, and the occasional stray seeds (because “seedless” is relative) don’t get named and stuck to our foreheads, just pushed aside.
I could tell you that I’m eating watermelon almost every day because of the health benefits. After all, it’s a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and beta-carotine. It’s full of fiber, and has a high water content. And even with it’s candy-sweet flavor, a cup of watermelon only has 46 calories.
I could tell you that, but I’d be lying.
I eat watermelon because, even without juice running down my chin, even without admonishments to “take that outside,” even without a grassy carpet, a canopy of mature trees, and sprinklers to run through, one bite of cool, crisp deliciousness re-awakens my seven-year-old self. The part of me that is innocent, uncensored, and free. The part of me that still spins on tire swings and dives to the bottom of the swimming pool and loves white cotton socks contrasting with the tan of her summer-bronzed ankles.
I’ve got my husband hooked on daily watermelon breaks, as well, and we often find ourselves curled on the couch around ten at night (we rarely go to bed earlier than two AM) sharing a bowl of crunchy fruit, and exchanging laughter and secrets.
And if sometimes – sometimes – I still dream about Shaun Cassidy at night, well, he doesn’t need to know that. Really