My father passed away in October 2001. And with his passing my mother began to think about her own mortality and the people she would meet again. At the same time she felt compelled to write my fathers and her personal histories. I became her scribe and story after story unfolded. One of the things she was most concerned about was her relationship with her father. He had been dead for 40 years or so and she was still angry with him. This was one meeting she dreaded. However, as she began to recall her past and through questioning her perceptions, she began to see the choices her father made in a different light.
Her family owned a ranch near Cody, Wyoming. During the winter months my grandfather worked at Yellowstone Lodge in Yellowstone National Park as a cook for the tourists. This created great hardship in maintaining the ranch but at the same time the money earned from this side job provided much needed necessities. He saved every penny he made except for one Christmas treat. Every year he brought home Christmas oranges. Often those oranges were the only thing in the children's stockings.
I asked my mother if this was why she bought a box of Christmas oranges every year. And one always found its way into our stockings. She carried on the tradition from her fathers gift of Christmas oranges and she had not realized it until that moment. And in fact I carry on the tradition too because that's what mother did. She thought of her father as a hard man, lacking in compassion or even love. Surely, I said, bringing home oranges as a Christmas treat showed his love. This she could not accept.
Later that evening I was back at home preparing our family dinner all the while thinking of my grandfather. And it just so happened that I decided to make a fruit salad which of course included an orange. As I peeled the orange the aroma of it was so strong and sweet, it literally enveloped me. And just then I felt an overwhelming love so grand, so sweet, so tender, so kind reach through the heavens and I knew his offering of Christmas oranges was more than just a fun treat. It said what he could not verbalize, " I care about you. I love you."
No matter the season I cannot see an orange without being reminded about that heavenly hug. Every year during the Christmas season I continue the tradition. I buy oranges. Not only will they end up in our Christmas stockings but I like to share them as well. Because oranges, well, you know what they mean.