A vivid dream

You were in my dream last night. My brother had told my mom and I that my sister was talking to you, seated across from one another at a small dining table in what seemed to be a restaurant, on an outside patio. My brother, mother and I were seated in a dining booth. I can’t remember if my father were present.

I walked over to your table, and somehow got the impression my sister liked you more than I did. I approached you meekly, as we’ve been noncommunicative for far too long, and I worried you were still cross, and continue to urge me to forget you. But you were your true self–your best self–and just as kind to me as the moment we began texting. You were funny, smart, charming, appreciative, and sympathetic.

I may have mentioned the argument you initiated, the one I didn’t want to end until it had graduated into a compromising moral. You may have apologized, may have said it was a rough time at that moment, and you don’t hold it against me. I may have even seen you take out your phone, find my name in that messaging service, and remove the block on me. All or part of that could have happened, but I’m uncertain; you know how fuzzy dreams can get.

Then we walked along a field, and I think my family accompanied us, loosely. You began to look different. Your hair got longer, and you wore it in a bun at the back of your head. Then your nose got crooked. Then maybe your beard grew out, maybe your skin lightened or darkened–I don’t fully remember, it was a dream. I felt unsure if you were the same person, even though you were still handsome and had a similar personality. I was unsure if I could recognize you as the same individual. Then the dream ended.

I don’t know what this means, but it made me hopeful that you might be thinking of me, missing me, and forgiving me, maybe changing for the best. To certify this optimism, when I got dressed this morning, I put on the same shirt I had worn the last time we met in person.

Thin Places: Peacefield

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 27. Prompt by Jordan Kisner. https://bit.ly/2yOUj3b

My parents are native Bostonians, but they moved to the small city of Quincy early in their marriage and raised my siblings and I there. It’s about five miles south of Boston. It’s also perhaps just as historically significant as Boston, or perhaps even more. It was the residence of some important families who shaped the American Revolution and early formation of the country: the Adams family, the Hancock family, and the Quincy family, the last of which contains the city’s namesake, Colonel John Quincy, and grandfather to first lady Abigail Adams.

Growing up, my mother would often take my siblings and I to the garden of the Adams family at their mansion in Quincy Center, Peacefield. It began when my sister and I sat in our stroller as tots, and we would continue on when our little brother was born, andĀ  he then alone rode the stroller. It’s always been an impressive, sprawling spot. Neatly trimmed hedges form several pathways to display rows and rows of flowers. While it was and continues to be a rite of passage for Quincy schoolchildren to attend a field trip touring the interior of the mansion, my siblings and I being no exception, there was always something special about the garden.

When the house’s famous founding residents lived there, people’s occupations were vast and varied. John Adams was no different from anyone else of his time. He made a living as a lawyer, farmer, politician, activist, and minister. Of course, legalities, politics, activism, and ministry are much easier to quantify and explain in the history books, but his farming is where he tended a majority of his livelihood. Thus, I always wonder about the lineage of the garden at the house as it is presently. Maybe the flowers were descended from the original flowers John and Abigail grew when they built the house? It would be neat to test it, but I’m unsure how to trace the genealogy of flora, let alone flora from over 200 years ago. Further, while flora has species and genus names, they do not have personal forenames and surnames like people do, so labeling a tree like that would be difficult.

The house was occupied by the family for nearly four generations, and I always wonder how their garden changed over the years. Did Abigail select some blooms and tend to them? I feel as though she would. What were her favorites? There had to have been some more vegetables and fruit when this was first planted, correct? Did they crossbreed and create hybrids? I wonder if when John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams became the owners, they made any changes from John and Abigail’s original lineup. When John Quincy and Louisa Catherine left the house to their son and his wife, did they change the lineup once more? When the family finally sold the residence to the National Park Service in 1946, what did the NPS add? Any kind of scents and fragrances that were uncharacteristic of the family to tend?

Whenever my mom would take us on this stroll through the garden, she would pinch off the withered blooms from the plants, “deadheading.” We would put them in our pockets, with the sound of the dried out seeds crinkling as we walked. Hydrangeas, hyacinths, poppies, marigolds, sunflowers, you name it. We’d take it to save and enable these existing flowers to bloom better and look better. We would then add these remains to our own garden at home, crunching them in our fists to break up and spread the seeds. I’d then see the plant sprout, and wonder if this plant’s ancestor had been loved by Abigail and John and their children, and their grandchildren, and so on. Had their ancestor seen bloodshed, Redcoat soldiers raiding homes? Lynchings, tar-and-featherings, and other strange corporal punishment? Was their ancestor plucked for use as a fragrance or herbal remedy? Pressed in a large textbook? Cut as a corsage or boutonniere? How did the Adams family even acquire it? Did they purchase them as saplings or seeds? At a greenhouse? Handed down through relatives, neighbors, and friends?

Often, I am unsure if my own genealogy is noteworthy and famous in any right, but I can at least say there’s a high likelihood that our residential garden is.

The value of persimmon

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 25. Prompt by Dinah Lenny. https://tinyurl.com/yc62sccl

Professional prospects have been fickle for a long while for those with newly-earned bachelor’s degrees, and I was no different in 2018. I was employed throughout my education, of course, but my call center job only allowed their fundraisers to be students at the university, and my internship was at a small nonprofit with a sole employee and the remainder of its staff were volunteers and unpaid interns. I did apply to be a manager at the company that operates these call centers, and the steady hours would allow me time to sit on a nonprofit board or do anything else for enrichment, I thought.

While I did accept an interview for management, my candidacy was swiftly rejected. I applied elsewhere, as an admin assistant, an account executive, a copywriter, a sales development representative, and many others. An interview here, a rejection there, but I had been a bachelor for nearly a month and a half, and couldn’t land much anything. I decided to seek outside a daytime office job and applied to the Sears at my local mall for a role in the fine jewelry department. I recalled a few summers earlier interviewing at the same place for around twenty different roles in softlines, but was rejected after a handful of days. This time, I interviewed and got the job on the spot. Some drug testing and computer training for a few, but within a week’s time, I was on the sales floor.

Sears is notably a struggling company nowadays, but it didn’t phase me early on. After all, my university had been the runt of the litter of a network of five state-run university campuses late in my college years. They were faced with debt, uncertain funding, and lack of clear vision in a new 25-year development plan. Meanwhile, our flagship sister school acquired more attention and love from the university president and other higher administration actors, even acquiring the campus of a newly dissolved Christian liberal arts college, despite the fact it was in closer vicinity to my own school, though I digress.

Sears was different. They downsized from the two-and-half story place my family and I had known throughout our lives and reduced it to one-and-half, a ground floor and basement. The second floor was technically still Sears’ property, but it was leased out to another retailer (this has been done to several Sears stores as a means to make extra money, as our CEO/chairman, Eddie Lampert, is more versed in real estate and struggles in maximizing retail potential). But one thing remained the same, my meal breaks. A sold thirty-minute chunk usually placed in the middle of my shift was something I had nearly every day.

During these breaks, I noticed another routine: this strange fruit being toted in several of my coworkers’ lunch bags. It looks a little like a tomato outside, but the resemblance stops once you pierce its flesh. It’s juicier, veinier, and pitted. It’s more golden-orange in color, and it smells sweeter. Persimmon. I knew it. I’d only seen animated renderings of it in my favorite handheld game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where I could find it on an island separated from my town, then I’d plant them as trees on my town to maximize value and the appetite of my residents. My character in the game had eaten a persimmon, but I could not taste through her. So I asked about them through my coworkers.

A few bought them at Stop and Shop or Shaw’s/Star Market, where my family typically shopped, but I never remembered seeing persimmons there. A few mentioned they were cheaper at some local Chinese/Asian markets, which I kept in mind. One friend shared half hers with me, and I thought it tasted both peach and apple-like. I told my family about how crazy the “office” was for these things, and my dad surprised me with his remarks.

“I grew up eating them,” he said. “My grandmother gave them to us. Sometimes she made sugar cookies with little persimmon pieces inside. They were pretty good.” My dad’s grandmother was Sicilian. I knew persimmons were a foreign fruit, but still, them being foreign doesn’t necessarily make them uncommon. Pineapples, avocados, mangoes, kiwis, and kale all seem to get much more attention. But I hadn’t realized they touched down in Italy. My coworkers were a diverse bunch, and all the persimmon munchers especially so. Columbia, Philippines, Albania, Trinidad, Haiti, Cape Verde, Portugal, China…some had come of age in the US, partly or entirely, others hadn’t. Seems like persimmons were transcending the world and Americans were missing out. I envied both my dad and mom who had grandparents from “the old country,” though for my mom’s side, that country was Ireland. My own grandparents had done a decent job explaining my cultural origins to us, but a lot was lost with time, practicality, and preferences.

I once went out to eat at a diner and was confused as to what black pudding was, and the waitress informed me it was pork sausage composed not of meat, but blood. Yuck. I told my maternal grandfather about this, and he recalled his father enjoying it often. During a holiday I explained to my maternal grandmother how popular persimmons are at work meals, and she remembered the cookies her mother made, whose recipe somehow never transcended generations onward. But perhaps it will one day.

In December 2019, I received a new job offer at a telemedicine company, full-time, in an office, on a contract. I wrestled with the decision, but I decided to resign from Sears. I was getting weary working until 11pm so often, as hours were extended for Christmas, I didn’t want to work from 10am to 6pm Christmas Eve, and problems with care plans, web orders, inventory maintenance, poor equipment, and dwindling staff across nearly every department proved increasing difficulty in being an optimal saleslady. I thought of reducing my hours to solely weekends or simply as needed, but didn’t want to bother with the negotiation as to how, and feared this new job would make me too exhausted to do anything. I only provided around a week’s notice, but explained the contract’s timing as reason. Remarkably, my boss received the news well.

My birthday happened the following month and the dinner and dessert presented to us by my family were exquisite as always. My mom gifted me a new corduroy and denim coat, courtesy of both parents, of course, and my dad got me a persimmon, the one pictured here. The persimmon is more than its image because it is one of the few discussions I’d have about my recent job that wasn’t in varied frustration, but simple bewilderment. It was affirmation that my family listens to me. Certainly, it’s a symbol that there is sweetness even among uncertainty.

(Also, this was domestically grown but stillĀ  $4.99 per piece…)