This morning, there were two dozen homegrown tomatoes on my doorstep. I arrived home to see Winn-Dixie bags hanging from my door, and I almost lost control of my lower extremities.
I come from country people. And country people regard tomatoes as holy things.
Country people get excited about things like tomatoes. We are also the kind of people who show our love in strange ways, using things like vegetables, casserole dishes, love-notes, or saturated fat. Sometimes we use all four.
There was no note attached to these tomatoes, which struck me as odd. A secret tomato-admirer, perhaps.
I brought the bags inside. I opened them. There were tomatoes of every shape and color. Yellows, greens, reds, and even purples.
Purple tomatoes, my mother once told me, were magic tomatoes. “You’ve hit the tomato jackpot,” my mother would say, “if you come across a tomato so full of magic that it’s turning purple.”
I have a thing for tomatoes—magic or otherwise. My mother used
to grow them in the summers of my youth. If I close my eyes I can still smell the greenery in her garden. Her small patches of tilled earth were surrounded by chicken wire, and hair clippings.
The clippings were mine. Back in those days, my mother used to cut my hair with dull scissors on our back porch.
In fact, this was the primary reason for my traumatic childhood. My haircuts were a cross between Bozo the Clown and an International Billiards Federation regulation cue ball.
Often, people at school would say things like, “Hey, who cuts your hair? Ronnie Milsap?”
Directly after my weedwacker haircuts, my mother would gather hair clippings into a dustpan and scatter them in her garden. The idea was that the human scent scares away vermin like raccoons, rabbits, and various civic-level politicians.
And it worked like a charm. Her tomatoes…