My childhood yard was once filled
with dozens of orange trees,
a neighborhood built in the middle of a grove,
each house retaining most their trees.
In spring, orange blossoms blossomed.
White, waxy, poking through leaves,
in small clusters of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.
Making the way for fat round oranges in winter.
And when winter came,
we reaped the harvest.
Fresh, pulpy orange juice,
squeezed into pitchers, cut with water.
Dad paid my siblings and me,
a nickel for every rotten orange
we picked off the ground
and threw into a green garbage can.
We were rich in winter.
One surviving orange tree stood
in our fenced backyard,
One last survivor made it through
the frozen genocide of 1983.
The lone survivor was my mother's sanctuary.
Hidden in the back yard, behind the house,
she escaped to Eden,
and smoked cigarettes.
Her routine was ritualistic.
She said, "Kids, don't come outside,
I'm going to be on the phone,
and I need privacy."
She dug into her purse,
excavating a Virginia Slim,
a pink lighter, a peppermint Mento,
and a travel-sized Estee Lauder bottle of Beautiful.
She still does this same routine,
although it's in a different house,
one that faces an intracoastal,
and instead of an orange tree,
She smokes behind a Sabal Palm.
About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.