Sunday, December 13, 2009

19 Million Limes and Not a Drop of Tequila or The Curse of The Green Thumb

Oh, is Lime Season again. If that sounds ungracious and ungrateful, wait till you know the entire story before judging me.

Forty years ago when I lived in an apartment I bought a Dwarf Lime tree to jazz up my Balcony. It was a sweet little thing about 2 1/2 feet tall and lived happily in a terra cotta planter till 1972 when I bought my present house. I figured at the time that it would surely find a proper home on the front porch or possibly at the side of the swimming pool om the garden and so it did, producing lots of shiny green leaves but nary a lime nor an inch of growth beyond its potted Dwarf stage. Then, its fate and mine changed significantly when a wonderful lemon tree in my garden succumbed to some unfortunate overwatering (sob) and, in a foolish moment, I planted the Dwarf Lime in its place thinking that perhaps being in the ground like a real tree would encourage it to produce at least one or two fruit or at least a few fragrant lime blossoms. You know the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for".....Had I but known........

After the prior 3 or 4 years of potted stagnation, suddenly within 6 months the Dwarf Lime had grown at least three feet and was ominously threatening to cast shade over the sunloving roses surrounding it, so I did what any thoughtful but ruthless gardener would do.....I dug it up (with many apologies and promises of a better life to come) and moved it to the back corner of the lot where it would not shade anything that wanted sun and where, remembering the sad fate of the lemon tree, it would be watered very sparsely since the sprinkler system barely extended its farthest flung drops to that corner.

And so it was, with much amazement the following summer, that I trotted out one morning to feed the birds and squirrels at their feeding ground in the far eastern corner of the north 40 and stumbled over an incredible pile of greenish fruit cluttering up the ground around the feeding station. Gazing upward in disbelief I realized that the Dwarf Lime was dwarf no more....nay it had become, when I wasn't looking, the incredible Gigantic Green Monster that threatened to take over North Hollywood and, rather than producing a few blossoms or several fruit, it appeared to be laden with about 6 gazillion limes.....give or take a couple. Obviously a serious labelling error at best and possibly a major garden threat at worst.

Being cursed with the inability to waste ANYTHING and the lack of imagination to figure out what to do with more than a dozen or so of the 6 gazillion limes, I made a deal with a young woman I worked with at Disney whom I knew raised veggies and sold them at a farmers' market..... to go to my house, harvest the lime crop and sell them for a profit which would be all hers and, having pulled off what I felt was a brilliant maneuver, wiped the beads of perspiration from my brow thinking I had solved the problem.

Little did I know that this lime tree, once known as Dwarf Lime and now emerging (like the Incredible Hulk) as The Lime Tree that Ate Lois, produced not one but 3 or 4 crops a year......Oy Gott.......what have I done to deserve this???? To make a ridiculously long story just a bit shorter, the girl at work soon decided that it was too time consuming to harvest 3 or 4 crops a year so she abandoned me to my fate which then consisted of gathering what seemed like thousands of fallen limes daily in the hem of my bathrobe, schlepping them into the kitchen and packing them into old grocery bags to be trundled up and down the street and thrust on all the unwary neighbors who made the mistake of opening their doors to me. And, since I had, by this time in my life, collected a sizeable stable of doctors who kept the various parts of me functioning, I never left the house to go to an appointment without the requisite bag of limes to contribute to the staff and whoever I encountered in the elevator. Then, by freezing about 20 or 30 (they freeze well and can be used beautifully in cooking when thawed) and putting the remaining numbers at the curb in a huge cardboard box with a sign reading "FREE LIMES" I found I could pretty well get rid of each crop without having to let them rot (a sight which offended my Waste-Not-Want-Not mentality and broke my skinflint heart).

And so it has continued fairly successfully until this year when a weird brainstorm overcame me and created a new menace. The whole business of unloading on the neighbors had palled reminding me painfully of the year when I was 5 or 6 and my Father forced me to go up and down the street in West Philly selling Liberty Magazine to the neighbors (it was the Depression and my father was a ruthless and unscrupulous exploiter of Child Labor....especially when the Child was Me)......I always hated the look of pity on their faces mixed with resentment at having to take the damned magazine or be considered unkind and ungenerous.......somewhat akin to the expression on my neighbors faces after the 20th or 30th time I appeared on their doorstep with my saddlebags of I came up with the idea of making Lime Marmalade !! After all, didn't I have a recipe given to me by a member of the Marvelous Blumenthal Family......Little Jenny (called that to distinguish her from Big Aunt Jenny who actually was little but had seniority).....Little Jenny had sent it to me when I remembered the wonderful candied orange peel she used to make when I was a child. Incidentally, Little Jenny was actually not at all little ....must have weighed about 250 pounds and had a definte moustache on her upper lip, but she was a good soul and she certainly made marvelous candied orange peel. Anyway I was sure I could use up hundreds of surplus limes that way so I went to my recipe box and found the card labelled "Pomerantzen". (dun't esk) It was then that I remembered why I had never used the recipe. It started out, "Take some orange peel and some sugar" and went swiftly downhill after that.......

Undaunted I figured I could do just that and add "some water" and go from there by taste and seat-of-my-pants to a happy conclusion. Sigh. After burning up not one but 2 perfectly good soup pots full of some limes, some sugar and some water by failing to properly monitor the final hour of this3 or 4 hour project I finally got the hang of it and have found that 2,983 limes plus some sugar and some water will produce about 2 ...maybe 3 pint jars of lime marmalade or candied limes........actually an utterly brilliant solution to my excess lime the only trouble is, I haven'tbeen able to justify to myself the expense of replacing the pots nor the cost of the damned sugar.......sigh. I was right......It's Always Something.

What Is Ephemeral and Only Skin Deep????

Sadly, during the first 50 or 60 years of my life I never considered myself beautiful, good looking, attractive or anything but "funny-looking". I remember once during my 20's when was shopping in a little jewelry store I glanced to my right and observed a person who appeared to be standing there next to me. My first reaction was, "Oh, my..... now isn't that a funny looking lady....too bad she wasn't given more chin and less boobs.......bad posture too...." It took at least 10 or 20 seconds of this merciless critique before I gasped in horror at the realization that this pitiful specimen I was looking at was actually ME in one of the stores' many mirrors. I have never forgotten the dejected, sinking feeling that took hold of me when I realized that the fairly decent looking person I saw in the mirror when I brushed my teeth each morn was not the same person that other people observed from various other angles..... "Oh, well", I finally consoled myself....."at least I am somewhat clever, have a good heart and am definitely kind to animals....and after doesn't last". So I patched up my tattered self worth as best I could and went about cultivating talents that didn't depend on knocking 'em dead in a bikini.

Fast-forward about 60 years to a time when I was downloading some old family photos ( I mean REALLY old.....I mean photos of my Mom and Grandma and Aunts and Uncles from the early 1900's and I came upon a later page in the album from the mid 1950's featuring a cutie whom I swear I didn't recognize for the same 10 or 20 seconds. "Holy crap", I exclaimed.......that was ME!" And I realized that, in all honesty, I was not really all that funny fact, I was.....well....... downright adorable !

Damn, damn, damn........had I but known........all those years of slinking down alleys and slithering into rooms silently without attracting any attention (or as little as possible being that my boobs always entered the room a few seconds before I even got there) I could have actually enjoyed 10 or 20 years of being.....well.....if not beautiful at least sort of cute.

.....That's why I encourage any readers of this blog who scan the first few entries without calling up some of the earlier ones to scroll down or upload the earlier entries that display a few early photos of me that might make you think of me as something other than a fat little old lady.......Imagine that Once Upon a Time all the fat little old ladies of this world may have once been what they used to call "heartthrobs".......all of this , by the way, offered with no arrogance...much humility....just calling attention to the utter foolishness of the young in never appreciating the glories of youth. All young people are gorgeous.....what a pity that they don't know it.....

Sigh. That time of my life was fun, but, to be honest, I am glad I have moved on to other things. For one thing.....the boobs were always a big problem. Those of you who pine for a D cup should only know how fervently I longed to fit into an A or B and be just one of the girls.

One of the major problems was Dirty Old Men. For instance once, coming home from the grocery store with my arms full of shopping bags I was trapped, helpless, in an elevator with the lascivious landlord of my building and had to beat him off with the only weapon I could summon..... a stalk of celery (which I happened to have in my one of the bags) keep him from ......let's say....measuring my boobs.......oh, the horror of it.. I told my Psychiatrist later......I wouldn't have minded so much if it had been Harold Ziebelman, the boy I had a crush on in the 6th grade (and who never gave me a glance, dammit), but all those ancient, wizened grabbers and feelers were loathesome.......really....what IS a poor well endowed girl to do???

Sigh.As I have said many times, life is fraught with dangers and challenges.......but, the bottom line to all of this ruminating is that it is hugely satisfying and great fun, even though in retrospect, to know now that I WAS once beautiful.

(A pox on you, Harold Ziebelman.....if you had only raised your gaze from my boobs to my face you might have noticed.....)