On December 7th, 1941, my mother was at her friend Louise’s house. They were picking the first oranges of the season when Louise’s mother came out to the yard to tell them the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Every year after, my mother commemorated the date by picking, and then eating, the first orange of the season in honor of those who had fought in World War II. Hers was a silent tradition; for decades she never even told anyone she was doing this. She finally shared the story with me, and if I could, I would come to her house on December 7th so I could pick an orange with her.
My Mom died in October 2009. That first December I made a point of driving over to her empty house after work to pick an orange for her. My brother and I were preparing to sell the house where we had grown up, and I wondered where I would pick oranges in the coming years. I wondered if I could fit a tree in the tiny yard of my midtown bungalow.
Later the following year I made a decision that surprised even me: I decided to move into Mom’s house. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve moved home, and it’s been a great blessing for me to be here in this lovely, quiet neighborhood. Now another December has arrived, and I’m excited to see all the beautiful orange fruit hanging like Christmas ornaments amid the glossy dark leaves.
So I invite you to join me: eat an orange on December 7th in memory of my Mom, and in memory of any of your family—your parents or grandparents—whose lives were touched by that horrendous time in our history. Its aftermath has affected us all. Eat an orange in memory of the Greatest Generation!
Post script: please say a prayer for California citrus farmers whose crops are enduring a week of hard freeze as I post this. Hoping I don’t lost my entire backyard crop, but at least my livelihood doesn’t depend it!