Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life with Fred and Lucy, Part 21: Fresh Fruits

                   Our Family Grocery Store in South Philly                                         

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that owning a grocery store does not guarantee financial freedom. Nope! My dad learned to make due with the small change made off each product sold. He called it being frugal, us kids called it being cheap!
Before the age of dousing fruits and vegetables with toxic chemicals and when there were more local farms, my father bought his fruit from the vendors who sold the produce from the back of a pick-up truck; nothing like fresh fruits in season.
My Uncle Jack had a farm in Jersey and in the summer, sold my father the excess peaches that Aunt Louise couldn’t make into a pie or jam. The peaches today don’t have the sweet taste of the peaches that I remember from my youth. The taste is different from the peaches of the 50’s & 60’s era… something has changed with the taste of our food…something is missing.

Anyway, because Dad could only sell fruit to our customers while it was fresh and was at odds on what to do with the fruits displaying signs of rot. Guess who was given the bad fruit?

Yep, the Maratea kids were given the apples, bananas, peaches, etc. with brown spots. It wasn’t until I was an adult and went shopping for food on my own that I realized that, contrary to what I was told as a child, bananas don’t grow on trees squishy and brown. Wow!

My father changed his ways as the time passed and grandchildren were born. After my divorce, my two year old daughter and I moved back in with my father. My mother was no longer there. No, she didn’t pass away…she took off, heading to sunny California, but that is a story that I’ll save for the book.
Fred was different with Rere. She was the first grandchild and was treated as royalty. When my father gave Rere fruit from the store, it was the prized peach or apple. My daughter never ate a banana that featured any brown spots.

Why the big switch? One day, before I headed off to my job at St. Agnes Hospital located on Broad Street in South Philly, my father handed my daughter a big juicy peach to eat before she left for the Montessori pre-school across the street. I was curious and asked, “Fred, why the fresh fruit now and not when we were growing up?”

His reply, before heading back into the store was, “Dumb ass!” This was his normal response to any questions that he either refused to, or did not have an answer for. My daughter never having to dream about eating fruit without spots did not appreciate the gift given to her and because the peach was too big and she wasn’t able to finish it; she hid it.
I came home from work to find a plumber working diligently on the downstairs bathroom. There was something clogging the pipes. My father was mumbling under his breath about dumb-ass plumbers and how expensive they were, while my daughter, clueless to all the activity going on around her, played with her dolls.

My father and I were in the store wondering what could have possibly caused the back-up and following biblical flood in the bathroom, when the plumber came out holding the slightly eaten peach in his hand.
My father, who would have taken the belt to us kids if we ever did anything like this in the good ole days, said nothing to my daughter or me. Grandchildren change the way we handle disasters. My father continued to give the best produce to his granddaughter and a special spot in the fridge for Rere to store her unfinished fruit.

Side note: Later that year, my father found another hiding spot where Rere stored her unwanted dinners; Fred’s snow boots.


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