Monday, October 4, 2010
Blue Fruit is coda in our family for spending money you don't have on something you don't need. Ideally Blue Fruit is just a beautiful thing, its sole purpose to be gazed upon.
This is how it happened. Circa 1966 (self: -1, sister: +1, pram bound) Mother takes us downtown to shop for groceries but instead spends the family's last money on un objet d'art, to whit, a ceramic blue-glazed bowl of fruit, made in Italy. It is breathtakingly beautiful and for a little while she forgets her husband is mostly at the pub, mostly staggering drunk on his return and prone to criticizing her cooking, like "What do you call this shit?".
So she gets home from town, leaves the infant in the pram downstairs, carts the toddler upstairs, scuttles back downstairs to retrieve the infant and shopping. Puts a load of cloth nappies in a bucket to soak, gets on with cooking a portion of the side of hogget that makes up the protein component in each of the three cooked meals the family eats daily. This is her life.
But this day she has the Blue Fruit and its magical power to transport her away. Later my Father will come home and shout that there is no beer in the fridge and no money left to buy beer.
Over the decades the anecdote becomes, from its retelling, smoothed over at the edges. It is an example of my Mother's eccentricity, a parable to illustrate the perils of spendthriftery. The punchline is her and I don't get it. To spend one's last dollar on something beautiful seems, to me, perfectly sane.
I fail to get it until the day I am informed by my husband that the family has just one hundred dollars left to last until pay-day (1 week hence) and as though compelled by DNA I spend ninety dollars on fabric which to this day remains unused. It was pretty fabric.
My Dad calls me that day and I explain the purchase and my increasing anxiety as to how to manage the rest of the week without money, he says ... "Blue Fruit!".
Roughly twelve years after the inaugural Blue Fruit purchase my Mother will leave my Father, marry another man, spend two months in intensive care after a serious car accident in which her second husband sustains a head injury and brain damage, she will study art and eventually muster the courage to exhibit her paintings, she will plant two gardens - each an acre in size, she will buy a pair of Rajasthani doors that will never be installed, occasionally she will tell her small, black Shih-Tzu/Maltese to fuck off - for licking his balls too loudly in her vicinity, sometimes she will have tufts of her hair dyed pink and purple. She will be loved fiercely by her grandchildren.
My Father will spend most of the next thirty years at the bottom of a bottle where, comfortably numbed, he doesn't have to think or feel too deeply. Somehow he sustains a quick wit and bare faced irreverence, the cause of every good and bad thing that ever happened to him. This is how he earns the deep affection of his grandchildren. He will miss my Mother every single day.
The Blue Fruit pictured above is a replica, the original long gone. A friend of mine found it in a junk shop and bought it for my birthday, it is the only gift I have ever received to leave me utterly speechless. Blue Fruit has become part of the language of our friendship.
My Dad was over the other day, he saw Blue Fruit MkII and said quietly, "I think I behaved appallingly."
For John and Sally, a little gift made of time and tears and memory.