Last week, Genia came to my house to meet my parents. No, we're not dating, and no, this isn't anything like meeting the parents and "taking our relationship to the next level" or anything. We were both in Illinois and had vacation time, so we spent a day together. That's all.
We spent the afternoon being pretty lazy, hanging out in the yard with my mom and watching cable. We later went out to dinner with my parents. That's what I usually do when I'm at my parents' house. It's an effing vacation right there!
After dinner, we were all kind of standing around in the kitchen when my dad decided to begin "preparing the fruits." This is an almost nightly ritual that takes place at my parents' house. Dad gets out several fruits, probably about five types, and begins preparing them. Oranges and pears are peeled, blueberries are washed and presented in a beautiful bowl, strawberries get the green parts chopped off, and melons are shaped into attractive pieces. Peaches and kiwis are avoided because he can't stand the way the fuzzy skin feels. Those ones are up to my mom to prepare.
Then comes the inevitable...Dad goes to the refrigerator in the garage, reserved only for fruits, giant jars of olives and pickles he makes himself, and a variety of beers that nobody ever really drinks. He returns with a crate of figs...and I use the term "crate" quite literally. This particular crate is about 12 by 24 inches. Full of figs.
So here's the part where Genia gets initiated. It has happened to several people so far, Tara included. I think my dad took her out to the garage and opened the trunk of his car, asking her "Do you like dates?" She was dating my brother at the time, and was thoroughly confused, until he showed her the giant-raisin-looking fruits stacked in his trunk, again, in crates, and made her sample one. It was probably all she could do not to spit it out. Actually, maybe she did spit it out later, covertly. Tara? Any information?
Okay, I'm digressing. Here's how it went:
Dad: Genia, have you ever had a fig?
Genia: No, I don't think I have
Dad: Come over here, have one. These are the most delicious things you will ever eat.
Genia samples a freshly peeled fig straight from my dad's hand. She likes it, which means she's in! Approval abounds, and she and my dad chat as they eat a few more figs each. My mom and I mention this one time we had dates wrapped in bacon at a tapas restaurant, to which my father replies (and this is a direct quote by the way...I wrote it down immediately after he said it, for the soul purpose of later repeating it in this blog):
When you want to mock lovely fruits, you put chocolate on dates or cheese on figs. This is an insult.
Beautiful, right? My dad is a lovely, beautiful man who just wants to share the wonder of unadulterated fruits with the world. Only, then the initiation turns into a weird sort of hazing. He pulls out the gross dates, the hard, round, yellow ones that taste awful to probably everybody except him and Auntie Vicky.
"Try this one," he says to Genia. As I watch her attempt to choke down a tiny bite, I think of my cousin Laith, who, when traveling in Saudi Arabia, was served a plate of cooked pigeon. Not wanting to insult, he began eating it. The men around him laughed, explaining that they always serve pigeon to "The New Guy." He stopped eating, relieved, knowing that he was officially part of the Arab business world, and waited for his meal of plain old regular lamb to arrive.
My father watches Genia and says "You don't like this one, do you?" She shakes her head honestly and he holds out his hand to take the half-eaten date and put it in the trash. "Not very many people do."
As I stand back and observe, Genia and my father keep chatting as if they've known each other for years. She asks him how dates grow, and he says "I will show you. Hold on a minute." He disappears from the room for a few minutes. Then we hear the voice from the front of the house, calling insistently "Genia! Come over here!" Genia, giggling, goes to find my father. A few minutes later, they two of them are leaning over the kitchen counter looking at a beautiful photo album that I've never seen before. My father explains that a patient of his used to travel in the Middle East in the 1950s and was a photographer. After my father treated him, the man wanted to give my father a gift. He put together an album of photos from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, complete with captions, and gave it to my father. The pages are full of date palm trees, camels, people working in the souks, minarets atop mosques...these are some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. And, per my father's request, little to no evidence of war or religion anywhere.
"Dad, where did this come from?" I ask in amazement. He looks at me, shaking his head and smiling. "Reemie, this has been sitting in the living room for about twenty years."
I later relay this entire story to my brother, who has never heard about this album either. It blows my mind that things like this exist in my life and only seem to surface as a result of the beautiful connection brought about by figs and dates.
Maybe I should try fresh dates again. Maybe I'll be justly rewarded. Maybe fruits are the answer to everything I've been looking for. What a lovely solution.
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