Monday, October 23, 2006

Richard & The Beautiful Thing

Once upon a it- seems- like- no- time- at- all- to- Granny time ago, when Maya's Mama was a little girl named Julie, and Maya's Uncle Richard was a little boy named Richard, and Maya's Granny was a young woman called Mom, and they hadn't a single wrinkle between them, they all lived together in a number of places, because they moved around a lot. But this story happened when none of them had ever been to Alaska, after they left Berkeley, and before they moved to Redwood City, when they lived in Stockton the first time. And Richard was 4½, and Julie was 2½, and Mom was 26. Yes they were, even if Maya doesn't think they were ever that young, indeed they were.

Now, as it happens, Richard and Julie always went shopping with Mom, just like Maya goes shopping with her Mama today. And, indeed, the story I am telling you started in Safeway, although it was not the same Safeway where Maya and her Mama go. For one thing, it was in Stockton and not Walnut Creek, and for another they never gave away balloons and cookies to the children in those not-so-terribly-long-ago days, which they do now.

Well, one day Mom had taken Julie and Richard to Safeway with her, and she had Julie in the cart, because Julie was still pretty young, and Richard was walking along, because Richard was older. Mom was in the produce section, where all of the wonderful fruit and vegetables are, and she was trying to decide if she should buy some asparagus, or if maybe one of Aunt Flo's friends would be giving her (Aunt Flo, that is) some (which, of course, she always shared) this week. If Aunt Flo's friend was giving her asparagus, then it would be a waste for Mom to buy it also, but if he didn't, then Julie and Richard and Mom would do without, and so Mom had to think about this carefully. While she was discussing this with Julie, Richard pulled on her skirt (in those days Mom wore skirts all the time, because those were the olden days, even if they weren't all that long ago).

Mom looked down, and Richard pointed to a magnificent, deep purple eggplant, and said "Mom, please buy me this beautiful thing". The expression on his face was rapt, and his voice was amazed. Now, Mom always wanted her children to eat their vegetables (which they always did, because they loved them so), and she remembered that when she had been a little girl called Joy Baby her Grandmother Herndon used to send her out to Grandfather Herndon's garden with a little basket to choose her own vegetables for dinner, and those vegetables always tasted the very best. So, Mom had Richard help her choose just which eggplant he wanted, and she put it in her cart, and when they got to the check-out stand she paid for it and then they took it home.

Well, let me tell you, Mom was excited that Richard had chosen a new vegetable for dinner! And Richard was excited that Mom had bought him his beautiful thing. The only trouble at all was that Mom had never cooked eggplant. But that wasn't a very big trouble, because Mom's Grandmother Herndon had often cooked it. So, Mom called her Grandmother and her Grandmother (who was Richard and Julie's great-grandmother) told her exactly how to cook the eggplant. So, Mom sliced the eggplant, and dipped it in milk, and rolled it in cracker crumbs, and fried it in the pan and served it with dinner. Oh, how lovely! And Richard and Julie sat down at the table, and Richard took one bite of the eggplant, and Mom was waiting for him to say how good it was, and he said, "I hate this stuff!"

How disappointing! After liking how it looked, and buying it, and Mom cooking it, it turned out that eggplant was one vegetable that Richard didn't like! Well, so it goes. So, Mom and Julie ate the eggplant between them, and Richard (having tried it, after all) had a sliced tomato, and that was that.

Until the next time they went to Safeway! There they were, Julie in the cart, Richard walking along, Mom choosing some ripe ears of corn, and Richard came up to Mom and pulled on her skirt (it's a wonder it stayed on, the way those children pulled on it to get Mom's attention, because Julie did it, too, you know --— just not when she was in the cart) and pointed to the eggplants, and said "Mom, please buy me that beautiful thing!" Now, Mom already knew that Richard didn't like eggplant, even if he didn't remember, so she said, "Remember the last time we bought an eggplant? Remember that you didn't like the way it tastes?" But that didn't matter, Richard still said, "Please." So, Mom thought, well we can give it one more try, and so she bought it. And took it home.

This time, when Mom cooked the eggplant, she had Richard stand right beside her and watch, so that he would know that the vegetable on the table was the eggplant he had wanted. She let him dip the slices in the milk and roll them in the cracker crumbs. She let him watch her fry it in the pan. And when she put it on his plate and he took a bite, he said, "I hate this stuff!"

Well, if he did, he did, and that didn't surprise Mom, because it was still the same stuff, and the taste wouldn't have changed. Mom figured that now he knew that the beautiful thing he saw in the store was that stuff he hated on the plate, and that would be that. How wrong could she be?

The very next time they went to the store, there they were in the produce department, Julie in the cart, Richard walking around, Mom choosing a nice bunch of broccoli for dinner, and Richard pulled on her skirt, and pointed to the eggplant, and said (oh, yes, indeed, he did), "Please, Mom, buy me this beautiful thing." And Mom finally understood! Richard didn't want to eat that stuff. He wanted to have the beautiful thing. So, this time when Mom bought the eggplant and took it home, she didn't slice it and dip it and roll it and fry it. No, indeed not. This time she found a lovely basket to put it in, and she found a soft cloth to put with it, and she put it on the toy shelf in Richard and Julie's room. And Richard polished it with the cloth every day for as long as it lasted. It shone with the loving care he gave it, and indeed it was a beautiful thing.

And yesterday Maya's Mama posted a recipe for eggplant on her blog and reminded Maya's Granny of this story.

20 comments:

Tabor said...

What a lovely story. I also love the look of eggplant more than the taste of it.

Mousie said...

oh that's a lovely story...so lovely...and i love eggplant but didn't know the word in English so thank you...
and about skirts...in 1983 or so I was on the market with my son...and my long skirt...and suddenly i felt little arms around my tights and a small voice: mummy i'm so tired...but she was a little girl, holding the wrong skirt...
see you dear...thank you

Never That Easy said...

That's such a sweet story. A pet eggplant... who'da thunk it?

Happy Monday!

Cuppa said...

Beautiful story Granny. Thanks.

I didn't taste eggplant until I was almost sixty and was delighted to discover that I quite liked it. Mmmm, it is oh so good tossed in olive oil and bbq'd.

Autumn's Mom said...

Great story. That picture of little J and Richard is darling.

Anvilcloud said...

Aha, I thought that's where the story might be headed, but then I doubted myself.

Tabba said...

Oh, I love this story! Eggplants are so beautiful. I have always loved to fawn over eggplant in the produce section as well. That color is like nothing else on Earth.
Can I just tell you again. I love this story!

Cherry said...

So you must tell us... Did Richard ever learn to love this beautiful thing?

Maya's Granny said...

No, Richard never did learn to like the taste of eggplant. So far as I know, he still doesn't.

But, it is a beautiful thing indeed.

Rain said...

If you haven't already thought of this, you should consider refining and submitting stories like this one to publishers for children's books. This story had the potential for beautiful illustrations, a great moral and a story that kept even adult readers interested. I seriously think you ought to give this some thought. It's not that hard to submit such and if they don't like it, so be it, but it's certainly worth a try! I buy many books for my grandkids and this is a book I'd be interested in if I saw int a store.

Melissa said...

What a neat story. Now me, I have never like eggplant either, but I also didn't know you could fry it.

Ally Bean said...

How funny. That's a great story. Did he name his pet eggplant?

J said...

When I first saw this post, I thought I was the beautiful thing. ;) Because of my posts and our conversation last week, and because you chose a picture of both of us. Funny, huh? Then I started reading, and I recognized the story about the eggplant. :)

Joy Des Jardins said...

Another wonderful story from you J. What a cute pic of Julie and Richard...sweet little faces.

Maya's Granny said...

J - I would never call you a thing! You are, however, much more beautiful than the eggplant.

I chose a picture of both of you because you are both in the story and it is such a wonderful picture.

Py Korry said...

They look SO serious in that picture!

gawilli said...

A great story that reminds me that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder - nourishment for the soul as well as for the body!

Chancy said...

Granny That is your VERY BEST STORY. I love it.

And it reminds me of the time I took my 4 year old daughter and her 5 year old cousin to a small outside fair with a Ferris wheel etc. The two children saw the cotton candy and HAD to have some of the beautiful pink stuff. The vendor put the pink cotton candy in a large white paper cone. I was driving home with the two girls in the back seat. My daughter,J, started crying and wailing. I said what is wrong J?

She said D is trying to mke me eat it. I said that is what you do with cotton candy,

She shouted NO. I am going to put it in a vase when we get home. :)

And she did. And it dripped and ran pink and I guess whe learned it was not a bunch of pretty pink flowers after all.

kenju said...

Eggplants are wolves in sheep's clothing!

Maya's Granny said...

Py korry, They both do look serious, don't they? J always was, but Richard was seldom. How the photographer managed to catch them both so serious I don't know, but I treasure the picture.