The Red Dress Club: Fresh Fruit

My flip flops smack against dirty steps as a breeze provides sweet relief from the sticky Middle Eastern air. A stone path is warm beneath my feet.

I sling my loosely knit backpack over one shoulder, slide my Lennon-esque sunglasses in place and enter the shuk, the open air market.

And then, I breathe in. Deeply.

Overpowering spices.

Uninhibited yells.

Stampeding children.

Slicha. Excuse me.

Beseder. It’s fine.

I’m bumped into, moved aside.

I take it in stride and feel thoroughly blended in with my flowy sundress, summer tan and bare face.

Until I hear, Hey Americayeet!

And realize that no. No, I’m not.

I make eye contact with the man who owns that gravelly voice. His smile-wrinkles frame warm eyes. A mischievous grin reveals missing teeth. And strong hands that have been kissed with a lifetime of sunshine, wave me over.

My step forward seals the deal: I’m so not a native.

Except that I am. I was born in Jerusalem and moved to the States when I was six years old. Fifteen years later, I’m marked by that fact.

Hey Americayeet! His accent is thick. His rs harsh. Where are you from? California? New York?

I don’t disappoint. Ani mi California, I say in Americanized Hebrew that I don’t know to be embarrassed by.

Medaberet Ivrit, eh? Az zeh, beshveelech. You speak Hebrew? Then this, is for you.

As he reaches into a basket of thorned oval fruit, I glance at his stand.

White mesh bags hang high, bursting with brightness. Clear plastic bowls overflow with the same richness. Reds. Oranges. Magentas.

Young men are blending, cup-filling, calling out to customers just like their father, or their grandfather, had called out to me.

Hey Americayeet! For you. His offering, the dangerous oval in water color shades of reds and purples, fits perfectly between weathered fingers.

Deftly, he slices the ends. Splits the skin and peels away the offending prickly layer. Inside the seedy fruit is soft, brilliant. As he places it in my hand, I feel the callouses on his. See the deep brown. Feel the warmth.

For you, eh, because you are a sabra.

A sabra is a prickly pear. Rough on the outside, deliciously sweet on the inside. It’s also what Israelis call natives.

I have always lived betwixt and between these labels.

An Israeli in the States- my name hard to pronounce, my parents’ accents thick, my family’s story different.

And an American in Israel- my clean cut clothes, my tentative stance, my bus schedule in hand.

But at this shuk, I was seen.

Not by the tired Ima rushing her curly haired children along.

Not by the grandparents shopping at their regular stands.

And not by the uniformed soldiers, guns loosely holstered at their sides.

I was seen by this warm-eyed vendor, who drew in those who made eye contact and stepped forward.

Hey Americayeet! Hey sabra!

So when he passed the freshly prepared fruit from his worn hands into my own coddled ones, I greedily savored the magenta juiciness. My secret was out. I was betwixt and between. I was different. But I was seen.

***

Fifteen years later my own hands, aged from travels and teaching and motherhood, slice the ends of a sabra. Split the spiny skin and effortlessly peel it back to reach the refreshing offering inside.

I take the first bite, and sigh in relief.

It tastes the same with my bare feet touching the cool hardwood floors in my Minnesotan kitchen as it did with my flip flops slapping against the warm stones in the Jerusalem shuk.

So today I’m still a sabra– prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside. I still crave being seen. And I still think that magenta is perfectly scrumptious.

Remembe(red) is a memoir meme. This week’s assignment was to write about a favorite fresh fruit or vegetable and to write it as a scene. Engage the senses, make us feel, see, taste, hear, and smell. Pull us in with description. Constructive criticism is always welcome.

 

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Comments

  1. Love this.

    It wasn’t a prompt, it was a story, of you – not the fruit. Yet it was about the fruit – a perfect balance.

    I’ve never been there or to a market like that, but I could smell/taste/hear the happenings.

    In your writing, you are definitely seen.

    Excellent job.

  2. This is lovely, and I loved reading it! I learned so much more about you than just that you like prickly pear!

  3. This was beautifully written and with so much meaning. I love that. Amazing.

    p.s. thank you for your comment at my place today. :)

  4. This is truly wonderful. I felt the warm air and with each line read, I wanted more. I’ve served myself twice from start to finish. Thanks for the offering. :>

  5. Oh this is perfect. I can feel and taste it. Your writing always makes me weep.
    xoxo,t

  6. You painted a picture of a place that I have never experienced. Thank you for sharing :)

  7. I love this piece and I feel your living between and betwixt. I am first generation American on my Father’s side, His accent is thick, his skin caramel colored, he is from Mexico. I spent my childhood returning to his homeland every summer for a month.At home, no one realized that I was Hispanic because I am so pale complexioned. But in Mexico, I stuck out like a sore thumb with my pale skin. At home,I had to suffer the jokes at my father’s expense and then tell someone mid sentence that they were offending me because I was Mexican. They looked befuddled. In Mexico,I had to suffer the “Gringa” jokes because they didn’t realize that I spoke their language. Again, I had to interrupt mid sentence to let them know that they were offending me and I did in fact understand. I’ve spent my entire life this way.My husband tells me to get a tattoo on my ass that says Hecho En Mexico (of course, I don’t know how that would help, who’s going to see my ass?LOL) This piece made me feel like I was there with you. Great piece, Very well written

  8. That was beautiful! I have never once tasted one of those, but now? I think I will seek one out!

  9. This is so rich and beautiful.

    There is a part of me that has waited my whole life to really be seen. What a gift.

  10. Neither one nor the other, and yet, somehow, both. After 20 years here I still find myself at times both betwixt and between.

    Beautifully written my friend.

    ———————————–
    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  11. What a beautiful piece. I didn’t do this one because I couldn’t come up with anything interesting for a piece of fruit. But you really stole the show with yours!

  12. This is amazing Galit. Amazing. I was on those streets with you and you told a story of your life. It was about the fruit but it was not. Wow, your talent and your rich history just flow from this piece.

  13. For a first time, u have put all of to shame. This was wonderful,giving me a clear picture of you of that heart u possess.
    Wow!!!

  14. I shouldn’t have read all the other comments because anything original I was going to tell you has already been said. Darn!
    I CAN tell you that I sat in my writing nook, in Michigan, in my robe…..but I ended up taking a trip through an Isreali market, seeing, hearing, and tasting life there for the first time.
    I also was able listen to part of my friends life story as we walked it together and was reminded of the beauty of living betwixt and between. You may not *perfectly* fit into ONE space but you *beautifully* fit into two….and are a richer person for it.
    Easiest trip I’ve ever taken….didn’t even need my passport! Thank you….and now I’m off to peel a clementine. (it’s all i have!)
    Brilliantly done, Galit!

  15. What great writing!!!! I love how this is more you and not the fruit so much. I also love how you describe the market. I could smell it! Great job!

  16. You did such a great job with this prompt. Wow. This was a tough one for me and I’m so impressed with where you took the story.

  17. I agree with Tracie – rich and beautiful are the perfect words for this piece. You’re making me re-think this prompt again you did such a beautiful job of incorporating the fruit in the story as opposed to writing about fruit. I felt so connected to your feelings as you walked through the market. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  18. Amazing job! I can’t believe how much you were able to share with a prompt about fruit!

  19. What a wonderful story! Growing up as an army brat, I got used to feeling out of place, but it must have been even more difficult for you! I love how you captured the turmoil of the open market with the sounds and smells–I felt like I was there.

    Do you know I have live here in Texas for years and have never eaten a prickly pear? Except for the jelly, but that doesn’t count, does it?

  20. So deliciously rich with cultural flavors. I was right there with you, even if I didn’t understand the foreign (to me) words. Your writing is amazing. You are a storyteller, indeed. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I was stationed in Turkey in the Air Force. I had my first pistachios (the red dyed ones) and chai in Turkey, while riding a crowded ferry from Istanbul to Karamursel. Although it was 30 years ago, I can still imagine the sounds and smells. Now, whenever I treat myself with pistachios, it takes me right back there.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

  21. My favorite story so far! Beautiful and meaningful. I absolutely loved it! Great job!

  22. What a lovely story, and your use of fruit as an analogy is perfectly creative.

  23. What an exceptional piece Galit – absolutely had me with you the whole time as well. Again, you are an amazing writer and I enjoy getting to know you through all your word journeys. I now crave fruit – thank you because I need it :-) Hugs!

  24. I love that because you were seen, because you allowed yourself to be seen, he showed you something so precious in return. Traveling creates such unique moments of vulnerability, moments we carry forever.

  25. This is perfectly balanced.
    It pulled me in and held me.
    I loved every part of it especially the description of the fruit and how it relates to you.
    Delightful.

  26. Certain things can take you back years and miles to a wonderful memory and that’s what you did here for us but with your memory.. beautifully written!

  27. I think I’m in love…with your writing. This was wonderful how in just a few words you transported us to that moment in the market. I can almost imagine the smells, the sounds, the sights.
    How very beautiful. (and yes, I now must try a prickly pear!)

  28. I loved the way you described your experience in the market. Great story.

  29. Wow! This was magic. You described a world I have never experienced, but I could see it and feel it as if I were there. The story came alive for me. I could feel the difficulty of feeling like you never fully belonged. The part that said, “My secret was out. I was betwixt and between. I was different. But I was seen.” Magic. The line gave me goosebumps. Loved this post!

  30. A full on lesson I learned over here today. I love how you were flagged down. I’ve never tried a prickly pear before, I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to get it open. Now? I simply must.

  31. Wow. Just wow – so perfectly written.

    And I love prickly pears, always delicious!

  32. This gave me chills and I don’t quite know why. But I loved it. It’s simple yet so very eloquent.

  33. I love the mixing of the languages and the contrasting textures throughout, with the fruit, his hands and with you. I am also from another country, albeit only Canada, but I can understand how you aren’t a part of either place, no longer there, but also not fully here. Beautiful story.

  34. This is so beautiful, your words really got to me and I loved that you used what could have gone simple and turned it into something very complex. Magenta and jeweled perfectly describes them, I’ve peeled a prickly pear and marveled at how pretty it was on the inside but never felt brave enough to try one…that may change in the future.

  35. Really nicely done! I’ve always wanted to visit Israel, and will some day. Thanks for giving me a little taste today!

  36. This is so cool. I was thinking of writing about my being a sabra the other day. I came across your post -well done. I was born in Israel as well and I immigrated to the U.S at age nine. We went back and returned when I was thirteen. Nice to meet you, Galit.

  37. You write beautifully! As a believer in, and follower of, Jesus (or Yeshua), I’ve always wanted to walk where He walked and see the places that He loved, called home, and prayed over! Your writing reveals yet another reason to go to Israel … the beauty of it’s people!

  38. So funny to read this today, maybe because of the pigua the other day, but I have been thinking about Israel quite a bit and how I thought that by my age I would be raising my family there. Anyway, I appreciate this post on so many levels- you really did a nice job of giving a taste of life there.

    Side note, I always get teased about my thick American accent when I speak Hebrew.

  39. fabulous! such an original story and you told it perfectly. I had no frame of reference yet I was right there experiencing every detail and emotion and sensation I loved the comparison between you and the fruit (?). so well done!

  40. I really like this! It tells the story of who you are while encompassing the prompt so well!

    I’ve never tried a prickly pear, but have seen them all the time in the grocery store and have wondered about them. Maybe I’ll give them a try!

  41. I. Love. This.
    Great job! I was there with you, and felt his palms.
    Came by from your visit to me, for TRDC.

  42. Wonderful, wonderful job with this prompt. You made it so much more than a story about the prickly pear; you let us into yourself, and that is so difficult to do. Honestly, such a good example of “showing, not telling.”

  43. You had me at flip-flops…then, you took me on a journey that had me feeling the warmth and tasting the sweetness.

    You are seen and heard and I just adore how you weave your words into beautiful stories of your life.

    I just loved this.

  44. This is a perfect way to describe your life and your sense of self. I love how you took his word for you and built the story around the fruit, when it isn’t really about the fruit at all. Really nice. And great work with the senses.

  45. What beautiful tie you have to the prickly pear.
    You made it a symbol of your history.
    Well written.

  46. What a fantastic post!! The descriptions, the bit of Hebrew tossed in like seasoning. This was such a treat to read.

  47. Wow! This was great! I love the way you ended it too. I learned so much. :)

  48. I loved reading this – it was so easy to follow even with a second language mixed in. I felt like I was witnessing and learning a new culture all at the same time. I really enjoyed this and loved the comparison of the pickly pear and you. Really great piece.

  49. You tell this story so beautifully it makes me want to hop on the next plane for Israel.

  50. Ahavti. mamash ahavti!!! Zeh yafah m’od.

    Mmmmm…..tzavar…..mmmmmm….

  51. Hi Galit:

    Lovely story, beautifully told.

    People often ask me where I feel is home. I say ‘nowhere.’ I have been gone from my homeland almost entirely for 21 years. I have experiences those there have not, and the same is true of where I live now. My experience of’ home’ feels different even if it isn’t really. Those people that hear that answer are immediately sad for me but I am not. I have spent nearly half my life in one place and the other half somewhere else. And that gives me a perspective that is unusual and, I think, perfect for me.

  52. I can’t believe I’m just reading this now.
    I was missing out.
    You paint yourself into this scene so vibrantly, the fruit, the vendor, your Minnesotan kitchen.

    This is what memoir is.

  53. Im sorry I missed this one this week until now. I loved hearing more about you, about your heritage, and this experience you had, feeling seen. <3

  54. So, so beautiful. A lame comment for a fabulous post- you’ve left me speechless.

  55. How gorgeous and tactile this piece was! So lovely and vulnerable.

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