This morning there were two dozen homegrown tomatoes on my doorstep. I arrived home to see Piggly Wiggly bags hanging from my doorknob, and I almost lost control of my lower extremities.
It’s a little early for tomato season, but this is Florida, and apparently someone got an early jump on the horse race.
I come from country people. And country people regard tomatoes as holy things. We get excited about items like tomatoes. Deeply excited.
We are the kind of people who show our love in non-obvious ways by using things like vegetables, casseroles, love notes, Dairy Queen products, saturated fat, and passive aggression. Sometimes we use all six.
I saw 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 rich purples the color of eggplants.
Purple tomatoes, my mother once told me, are 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.”
Well, I have a thing for tomatoes, magic or otherwise. I’m crazy about them. 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 human 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 a primary reason for my traumatic childhood. Because my haircuts were a cross between Bozo the Clown and a 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…