Traditions would not be what they are without their history. That history is driven by our powerful memories.
Christmas has always meant handmade Stockwell Christmas cards (this year is year 19), non-traditional food for dinner (enchiladas, seafood, teriyaki pot roast to name a few), and a huge box of Grandpa’s oranges arriving just around this time when the air is nippy and damp. Ken, our life-long mail man, would excitedly knock on our door anytime a big brown package would come for us.
“Is it the oranges?” he would ask.
I guess technically they aren’t oranges. Tangerines? Clementines? Cuties? Small, tangy, and fragrant. When we had the chance to stay in Fresno for winter break I would climb up into the middle of the tree to pick the fruit his arthritic hands could not reach. We got our last box from Grandpa in 2009 when he was 90 years old. It was his last Christmas in the house that he shared for decades with his beloved Donnie, my Grandmother.
When he passed away the following Thanksgiving, the couple who bought his house invited us over to pick oranges from his tree. After all, it was Ralph who had planted that tree and nurtured it into a seemingly endless supply of sweet fruit that is unmatched by any crate found in the local store. It gave us a sense of normal during a season in which losing someone you love dearly stings so rawly.
Today it is damp and cold, and I have already gone through 2 crates of “cuties” from Safeway. It’s not the same. Today I also received a small perfectly square brown box in the mail. It’s not much, but it was enough to reduce me to tears as I opened it.
Rose and George were his next door neighbors for nearly four decades an along the way were absorbed into the family. They continued on Grandpa Ralph’s tradition for us. My mom received a large box full of these vibrant and juicy gems at their new house.
Thank you for making this Christmas feel more like my own. I miss you forever Grandpa.