Sunday, October 11, 2009

Maybe I Could Touch Heaven

What is it with the memories that we have of "home"?  It's a welcoming feeling that makes us feel "right".   Our memories are singularly our own that time cannot take away.

"...You Can See It From There"
I've mentioned the area of Texas that I'm from [meaning where I was born and raised] called the Rio Grande Valley [a.k.a. the Valley] on the Texas-Mexico border.  It's what is considered as the "Tip of Texas".  However, the older sister of my childhood best friend liked to say,  "it's not the end of the earth, but you can see it [meaning the end] from there."  It consists of a string of small towns along the border, mas o menos [more or less], that are independent of each other yet connected by geography and an expressway.  At the time that I grew up there, agriculture was a huge industry ~ mainly cotton, corn, sugar cane, and citrus orchards.  [Yep, citrus orchards.]  While Florida and Southern California are more well-known for their citrus orchards, the Rio Grande Valley is the only area in Texas that has a tropical climate that is well-suited for growing citrus.  Though "the freeze of 1983" devastated the citrus industry in the Rio Grande Valley, some citrus is still grown there today.

Cotton Pickin'
Though, I lived in a small town that couldn't really be described as the "country", I certainly knew where the "country" was located [just outside of town ;)].  There are certain events and smells that are so ingrained in who I am that when I experience them outside of the Valley, I am instantly transported back to my childhood.  For example, during cotton's harvest [a.k.a. cotton pickin'] time [in the fall], pieces of cotton, litter the roadsides so much sometimes that it looks like snow.  Also, I can't tell you how many times I've sat in the car at a red light behind a cotton trailer that is on it's way from the fields to the cotton gin, just staring at the cotton wondering what it would be used for ~ clothing, blankets, etc.  Now, when I purchase something made of cotton, I wonder if someone like me had been staring at the cotton trailer at a red light wondering what it would become.

So, How Is Sugar Made, Anyway?
Another common event is the harvesting of sugar cane which involves burning the mature plants, which leaves the pure sugar.  Another byproduct of this process is black ash.  Black ash that swarms through the air like bees and lands on everything.  It gathers at doorsteps like leaves that fall to the ground.  Of course, these are our "leaves" because in a tropical climate the leaves don't change ~ they're always green.  Similar to leaves, though, someone has to clean them up, and that someone was me.  Every time I'm baking cookies and I'm measuring and pouring the sugar into the bowl, I wonder if someone like me had the unfortunate task of trying to sweep black ash from their doorstep.

I'm An Aggie, But I Like The Smell of Burnt Orange
In the small town that I'm from, there was a citrus canning and processing plant called Texsun Corporation. [This plant closed in 1991.]  Part of the processing of oranges into canned juice involves burning the oranges.  [What is it with the burning, anyway?]  While there is no ash released into the air from this process, there is a horrid smell that's like, well, burnt oranges.  A smell that to an outsider would be offensive, but there are times that I can almost smell the burnt oranges.  I can almost smell "home".  Crazy, I know, but a fact nonetheless.

Something's Wrong With It
For about six years, I lived almost in the middle of an orange orchard.  Because of our proximity to the oranges, the purchase of the house included "picking priveleges", meaning right before harvest, we could pick our own oranges, and we did.  My mom made fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning.  To this day, I love orange juice, but I've never been able to buy that fresh taste.  That was until my family and I last year had breakfast at L'Madeliene.  My son ordered a glass of orange juice, and after taking his first sip, he said there was "something" wrong with it.  So, I took a sip, and I and my taste buds were instantly transported back to that orange grove where we had lived.  That "something" was that it was fresh squeezed orange juice, and my son prefers the grocery store kind. [Ick.]

Maybe I Could Touch Heaven
One of my older sisters married a farmer, and she took me and my brother-in-law's younger sister out there at cotton pickin' time one year.  Though the cotton was and is mechanically picked, someone has to climb up the outside of the cotton trailer and pack the cotton down so that the maximum amount of cotton possible is in each trailer.  The packing consists of jumping on the cotton ~ no need for trampolines here!  It's one of those jobs that to a child, is a lot of fun, but to an adult, not so much.  I had fun that day jumping and laughing, but the best part of all was when the sun went down.  My brother-in-law's younger sister and I laid on top of all that cotton in one of the trailers [which in my opinion is more comfortable than a feather bed on any day of the week and twice on Sunday].  We gazed at the moon and the stars in that vast Texas sky, and I remember thinking that they were so very bright and so very close.  So close that it seemed as if I could reach up and snatch them from the sky, and take them home with me in my pocket.  So close that maybe, just maybe, I could touch Heaven.


  1. Lovely post! What a great memory, staring at the star-filled sky while resting in a mound of soft cotton.

  2. This brings back memories of my part of Texas (the other end, the north). Except that whenever I saw the cotton, I could only remember my mother's stories of having to pick it as a little kid.


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