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The Watermelon Memory

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Just the other day I was reminded of her; my mother, who has been dead now for almost four years. I was brought back to the summers of my usually glorious childhood. I was free to just remember.

It doesn’t normally happen that way. Yes, I think about my mother’s absence all the time, but I often can’t remember her without immense pain. I usually think of her on bad days or in my most desperate times, when I would’ve needed her if she were still alive.

The other day was different. It was rare. The memory came on a good day, a perfect day. For an afternoon I was young again and relished in the memory of how it felt to be free from the knowledge of how painful this world can be. Being September, the summer has started to fade away, but this day it hung on with determination and warmed my shoulders, as well as my soul.

An old farmer was sitting in the shade along a country road that led toward home. The back of his old pickup truck was full of enormous watermelons.

He had hands that were warped from years of hard work and a toothless, impossibly infectious smile. For six dollars, he sold me a piece of my summers as a young girl. As I loaded the fruit into the backseat of my car, I already had motives beyond supporting the local farming community. Waiting at home were my two horses who, I knew, would love a tasty treat.

It had been years since they had watermelon, and even though I had eaten some occasionally, I hadn’t purchased a whole one in just as long. I could say it was simply because I knew they weren’t as crazy about this fruit as my sister’s horse had been, but if I’m being honest, I would admit that I didn’t feel ready to embrace an activity that was once so simple and joyful. I was afraid it would just feel empty and sad.

When I was young, summers were spent with my mother and sister, and our horses. We would go to playdays, family oriented rodeos, every weekend from the time I was eleven until I was in high school. It was a great way to grow up and helped me focus on what was important about life and what a good time felt like. It kept me on track as a teenager, and I am grateful for my mother’s insight about what was best for us.

On especially hot days, we would get watermelon and feed it to our horses. We squealed with delight as only young girls who love horses can. My sister’s horse couldn’t get enough of the treat, its devouring of the food was comical, to say the least.

And that was one of the many simple and beautiful memories I have of life that I took for granted back then. I don’t think I ever realized how much my mother sacrificed to give us these memories, these gifts.

I got older. I got busy with high school and work. Sadly, the playdays faded away. My sister’s horse got old too, and after graduation, she passed away. Given her age, we almost expected it. What came as a brutal shock was the unexpected death of my mother not long after.

With her gone, I was submerged in an ocean of grief that I’ve been trying to swim out of ever since. I won’t say it gets easier with time. I don’t believe that it does, but I do get stronger, and I know that it is because of my mother and how she helped me to grow up. She was incredibly strong.

I am learning that you have to open your heart up to remember the good things about a life with someone. After they are gone, such memories are all that you have left. As painful as it is, I owe it to the girl I once was to relish in those simple joys remembered. Most of all, I owe it to my mother to carry on the memories she worked so hard to give my sister and I.

Now, my oldest horse is showing her age and my sister is in California. I carried the watermelon out to the pasture with a small amount of trepidation. Would the horses like it? More importantly, would it make me feel hollow to do this alone?

I fed it to my young horse who was skeptical as he had never been a part of this childhood tradition. He began to eat. It was obvious the fruit was growing on him and then my old horse took a bite and came alive with the taste. It was as if she were remembering too, and I began to laugh like only a young woman who loves her horses and life is capable of laughing.

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About LindsayWhelchel

  • Kylee Gwartney

    Love your article Lindsay! I lost my dad unexpectedly 3 years ago, so it’s always nice to read something you can relate to. The good memories are what get us through 🙂

  • LindsayWhelchel

    Thank you so much,
    That means a lot to hear…