without tasting the summers
you peeled for me and placed
face-up on my china breakfast plate.
Voices - Naomi Shihab Nye
Sun-soaked cantaloupes smell of summer, rain, dew and earthy ridges. Melon memories make me smile. They were a staple of our summer fare, along with corn on the cob and fresh sliced tomatoes still warm from the garden. I see my grandma holding the melon in one tiny hand and a scary-sharp knife in the other. She could peel and slice a melon in the time it took my mouth to start watering.
When I was a kid we called them musk melons. We ate them sliced and halved, rarely cubed. Cubing was an unnecessary delay. In my family we salted and peppered our melons, just enough to pull their ripe juiciness to the surface.
Cantaloupes were part of our beach fare. I loved letting the juice of each slice run down my chin and arms; and then, after giving my little brother a threatening look that said stay away from my melon, I would race to the water, rinse off and come back for more.
Sometimes when my dad made my plate, he would lay a slice of melon on its side like a smile with two maraschino cherries for eyes and a miniature marshmallow for a nose.
Cantaloupe was one of the few things connected with my family that has only happy memories. We all loved melon and ate it with joy and gusto. Eating this luscious fruit with my family created alchemical moments where all pettiness and hurt was forgotten. And when we had finished every last bight, we were too full to care about anything except a nap.