Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coconuts and Balmy Breezes

I can remember the first time my father, who always did the grocery shopping, brought home a coconut. That may not seem like such  a big thing to most people, but to us kids, who had never seen one in person, it was a pretty neat experience. We all wanted to hold it and rub our hands over its hairy, rough exterior. We thought it looked like a little monkey with its 'face' of three holes on one end.

Dad, let us all take turns handling it while he got a big nail and a hammer. Oh, the excitement grew then! He used the hammer and nail to poke a hole in each of the three indentations the coconut had, which we had called a 'face'. Then he tipped the coconut up to each of our eager little faces and let us taste the coconut milk. Oh, we thought we were pretty exotic then!

But the fun wasn't over yet. Next he took the coconut outside to the doorstep and used the hammer to break it into pieces. He brought the pieces all inside again and used his jackknife to pry the coconut flesh off the shell. He gave us each a piece and told us to chew it good. We had only ever had flaked coconut in recipes before, but this was the real thing. It was just like you'd have if you were on a deserted island somewhere in a tropical sea! Our imaginations soared!

I thank my father for doing special things like that for us. He didn't have to but he wanted to share other parts of the world with us. He still loves watching National Geographic specials of faraway lands and he shared that love with us kids. Whenever there was a geography question to be answered he'd have the answer for you. Dad loved knowing about the world and the places you could see and explore and he has passed that on to his children.

I don't know when my father's interest in other lands began. Maybe it was when he was five years old, in 1944, during the war, when his mother sent him to the store to pick up a few things for her. She said that once he got everything she needed he could pick out something different to bring home for a treat. That's when he spotted something he had never seen before. Bananas! They were green as grass but he didn't know they weren't supposed to be. He proudly carried them home but it was days before they were ripe enough to eat.

In our world where everything is at our fingertips its hard to imagine a child not ever holding a real coconut or  knowing what a banana was. But not long ago, the only time kids had an orange was at Christmas time in a stocking. We have so much now that its no longer special. I feel bad for the kids of today. I don't know if any of them will ever have the excitement of holding something they've never seen before in their hands and dreaming dreams because of it.

I know that after Dad brought home that coconut, even our play time changed for ages after that. Where once we played cowboys and Indians and 'house', now we played that we were shipwrecked on a deserted island and only had coconuts to eat and drink from. We pretended that every tree we laid under was a palm tree blowing in the warm, tropical breezes. Tarzan and Jane were our greatest heroes and we all wanted to someday travel to see trees that had coconuts growing on them.

It might have been a simple act of bringing home something different but it opened our minds up to a world of adventure. Thank you Dad, I love you.

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