A Lesson In Tomatoes And Appearances

Looks aren’t everything

My mom and dad’s neighbors, Gracie and Paul, have lived next door for as long as I can remember. Literally, I don’t ever remember a time when they were not there. They were already here when we moved in to the house where my parents still live when I was three years old.

They are stalwart, modest, kind and generous people and they have been truly good neighbors to my folks. Recently, my mama, who is 81, has taken to referring to them as ‘angels’.

Paul, 91, a survivor of several strokes and now in the terminal stages of liver cancer, has a green thumb. That is to say, he is a bona fide backyard gardener with the crops to prove it. I’m careful to put this in present context even though none of what he typically nurtured and grew from his backyard over the years, which included everything from onions to apples, and of course, his ‘other-worldly’ peaches harvested from a single, well nurtured tree, are coming on this year. None were planted and the peach tree has been gone a year, at least.

In my eyes, he is still a gardener all the same, despite his weakened physical state. This year, he stubbornly insisted on planting what will likely be his last harvest: tomatoes. His wife and sons helped him to plant eight tomato plants in total of various varieties in the historically bountiful garden spot. I’ve watched them ripen with great anticipation as weeks ago he told me during a brief over-the-fence chat he hoped to have enough to “share around”.

The other night Gracie knocked on the back door. When I opened it she held up a plastic shopping bag of tomatoes from Paul’s garden saying, “I brought some tomatoes.” As I propped the door open and invited her inside the deliciously familiar scent of fresh tomatoes wafted up my nose.

Have you ever had real homegrown tomatoes from Ohio? They are much like taking a bite out of the sun, exploding with juicy, sweet-tart tanginess and melting in your mouth like a midwestern summer sunset as it glides below the horizon leaving the sky the color of ripened tomatoes of red, yellow and orange.

I’m pretty sure Eve could’ve just as easily been a ‘tomato temptress’ with one of these homegrown babies in her hands while in the Garden of Eden if it weren’t for the apple tree in the story! Furthermore, including ‘vine-ripened’ when you’re describing the kind of tomato that comes out of your neighbor’s or your own backyard is redundant, which is why I’m always distrustful of the packaged tomatoes in the supermarket that include the phrase, ‘vine-ripened’ which is pretty much a shriveled, green wirey twig stringing all the fruit together like Christmas lights. It’s an over-sell that’s pretty obvious when you’ve grown up eating the real thing.

This leads me to appearances

Food and people come in all sorts of various packages, we all recognize this, however, sometimes, both can be tricky when ferreting out their true natures if you only rely on appearances. For example, many processed foods harbor a questionable intention towards our overall health, much like a trojan horse, by including ingredients which have been genetically modified and recklessly unleashed into the food chain.

Did you know you should be able to smell most fruits and vegetables when they’re ready to eat?

Well, you can if they are fresh and have been grown in a healthy, natural environment, not in a lab or hothouse. Unlike people, we prefer not to smell one another but, what if we could actually smell another’s intention toward us or toward the collective community as a whole? Dogs smell one another and it seems they derive a lot of information from a few sniffs which may even include the other dog’s intentions, what they had to eat last and if they might be up for a little romp and tussle.

What if we could smell another human being in this way?

I wonder what Donald Trump would smell like to my dog? Does myopic selfishness have a scent? Something like rotten tomatoes, perhaps? On the other hand, I’m curious too, what generosity and kindness might smell like? A Bounce ™ dryer sheet, frankincense and myrrh, sun ripened tomatoes?

Don’t be fooled by appearances

My mom and dad’s neighbors are simple people who I’m certain have not been without their challenges and heartaches in life but they’ve mostly kept those to themselves. They’re not flashy or flamboyant, they’ve lived in the same modest house on the same street for nearly seventy years. By all appearances one might pass them by on the street with nary a second glance, even dismiss them as no longer being relevant to the world at large if they ever were at all but, I say such an assessment by appearances alone would be a mistake. Their lives made a difference and continue to do so right here on the street where they live and this is the lesson I take with me regarding tomatoes and appearances, don’t be fooled. If you’re going to sniff out the real thing whether it be fruits, vegetables or people you’ve got to trust more than your eyes.

Author’s Note: I’d like to thank Tamyka Bell for the generous mention of

and for reminding me of why I started this publication here in LWTM #31, (check out the entire issue below)!

Also, thanks to Tamyka for reminding me that I’ve been neglecting Rezo-Nation a little bit lately and that won’t do! Hence, this contribution today. I hope it brings something of value to you when you read it. Namaste — S Lynn

AmEriCan DoRk. HuMaN ApPreNTicE. PoEt. SOngWriTer. PiCker. wRiTer. EDitor. CoMmA faiRy. veTeRaN.