During my drive south, I passed a family on the side of the road. Their car was pulled over, doors wide open to a fallowed field where it’s previous inhabitants were dancing, jumping, and waving their arms. Dad was looking on with a face that radiated happiness at the pure joy he was seeing through his children.
At first I thought they must be city dwellers experiencing their first visit to the country… touching the land from which their food is grown. Then I realized, we had just passed the sign welcoming us to Florida. They were excited to be in the sunshine state.
I recalled this today because I was transported to my first visit here. I flew in from Canada and landed after dark. I can still smell the scent of unseen orange blossoms hanging thick in the air. I was in tenth grade and my grandparents had given me the trip as a gift. They’d bought a trailer in Kissimmee and had been happily spending the winters as snowbirds.
Nana and Gramps drove me to Daytona Beach so I could touch the Atlantic Ocean for the first time but I was most excited about something else. They found an orchard with access from the road so I could see and touch an orange still on a tree. If I’d been younger, and less worried about my teenage reputation, I would have been dancing, just like those young kids in the field.
My grandmother made fresh squeezed orange juice for us every day on that trip. I drank it while I ate my bowl of – couldn’t get in Canada then– Honey Grahams. I had never tasted orange juice so good! I learned the secret ingredient to the perfect glass was to include a ruby red grapefruit to offset the sweetness of the oranges.
So today, in Florida, I paid homage to my grandmother by making fresh orange juice with a single grapefruit included. It wasn’t quite as good as hers. Maybe because I used a juicer instead of hand squeezing or perhaps the fruit wasn’t just-picked-off-the-tree fresh. I suspect it’s missing the main ingredient. Nana’s love. There’s something to be said for the love that radiates from a parent, or grandparent, when they experience pure joy through their children’s eyes. It makes the world look, and taste, so much better.