EVIL PLANT

Some botanist somewhere is patting himself on the back, enjoying the acknowledgements from colleagues, maybe even cashing some hefty royalty checks.  But I maintain that whoever developed this plant is single handedly responsible for ruining our society - discouraging sense of family and community and destroying our neighborhoods.

No, I'm not talking about marijuana or poppies.  It's the "personal watermelon" I blame for our ills.

Someone has taken a beautiful and sweet fruit and all that has meant for so many years and reduced it to a singularly selfish act of sweet and seedless nourishment.  This one fruit used to bring families and neighbors together.  It was always large enough to feed us all.   No more.

I don’t remember my dad’s dad all that well.  But I do remember gathering on hot July afternoons under a big old shade tree in Papa and Mama Moon’s Melville Street yard in Graham, North Carolina.  I remember aunts and uncles and cousins and other folks I still don’t remember, all gathering under that tree and cutting into the largest watermelon Alamance County must have ever seen.  The melon was always on an outdoor table that was covered with one of those waterproof and padded vinyl tablecloths with red plaid designs.  We would all take a piece of melon.  The older folks would pepper theirs with salt.  The younger folks would gag at that sight and eat theirs raw.  But young and old would refresh themselves and take pride in the force with which the spit seeds hit the thin dark green grass and the old and knotty tree roots.  And of course, the sound of laughter and talking through the slurps of juice and the chomping of a wet fruit were comforting summer sounds.

I also remember the Tyson’s house in Jacksonville, Florida, in the neighborhood where I grew up.  Several times every summer, it seemed, Mrs. Tyson would have a cut and ready-to-eat watermelon in her back yard.  I don’t remember a vinyl tablecloth at Mrs. Tyson’s, but I do remember how she used to eat watermelons.  She would chew and chew and chew and chew.  She would get every bit of water and juice from each bite, then spit, not just seeds, but also the flesh from her mouthful of melon onto the ground.  I never understood why she did that.

But the big melon brought my family and friends together.  It brought our neighborhood and the Tyson’s together.  Watermelons were summer rituals.  

The other day I saw a television ad.  “Personal watermelons, two for four-dollars.”  I’ve purchased and eaten those tiny little anti-social, family-wrecking pieces of fruit.  They taste okay, but what’s going on here?  Personal watermelons are like TV Dinners.  They are ruining the family unit.  The sense of community.  These days a kid can take his very own watermelon back to his room and eat and Tweet or do whatever.  

Yeh.  Maybe marijuana has wrecked a few lives and families.  Certainly the poppy plant has done major social damage.  But if you ask me, it’s the “personal watermelon” that has done most harm.  

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