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  • Writer's pictureJerri Lynn Sparks

How To Find A Good Melon

(Or Why I Learned To Love Solitude And Gave Up Dating)

There we sat on the front steps, my mother, my little sister and me, gazing across the lawn to the field of watermelons before us. It was a typical sunny Southern day at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as it is in most of my childhood memories for some reason, and the heat emanating off the grass made waves in my visual field, as if the watermelons were swaying in the sun. My folks had rented the place a few months earlier from the lunch lady at my school. I didn’t understand the concept of ‘rent’ back then so I thought this was our new forever home. Little did I know it would be the first of many places we’d live before we settled into the childhood dwelling I now remember as ‘home’ when my thoughts turn to Carolina.

I remember that my mother, so very young at this point, possibly 22 or 23 years old with long legs, auburn hair and an exuberant personality, was sullen that day. She just sat with her arms folded around her legs on the steps, not saying much to either of us. Suddenly, she asked “Do you girls want to go pick a watermelon?” Well of course we did! It was blazing hot and the idea of cool, sweet watermelon seemed wonderful.

So the three of us trudged across the lawn, all brownish and crunchy from lack of rain, and tried to decide which one of these green orbs was a good melon. We scanned back and forth, into the far reaches of the back row. We stepped gingerly over the tiny ones and turned the larger ones upside down a bit to check for rot. In truth, neither of us knew what we were doing but my sister and I were too young to know that.

Finally, my mom just picked one out and plucked it right out of the earth. Satisfied that she’d picked a good melon, my sister and I followed behind her triumphantly, eagerly awaiting that pink, juicy flesh. My mouth waters to this day just thinking about it. The feeling of anticipation was strong because we’d never done this before. Even though we grew up in farmland, mom didn’t care too much for it when we were younger. It was only as I approached adolescence that I recall ever seeing her garden, and by then it seemed to be the only thing she loved other than us kids.

She sat the melon on the ground in front of the steps and went inside to get a big kitchen knife. My sister and I stood off to the side and waited to see what the inside of the melon looked like. I imagined deep, red flesh with dark black seeds that we’d spit out in a spitting contest, and thick, sweet juice running down the side of the melon. Oh, I couldn’t wait for that good melon!

Then the moment of truth came. The knife slid awkwardly into the watermelon and got stuck. I remember mom struggling to finally open the thing and when she did, she sighed and crouched down to the steps and put her head in her hands.

Confused, I came in closer to see what was wrong. I pulled apart the two halves a little further and could see that it wasn’t a good melon after all – it wasn’t ripe. The flesh was pale pink and the seeds were measly and white. No juice ran from it at all. Mom said we’d harvested the crop too early, that none of those swaying globes of goodness were ready yet. Desire delayed. Anticipation let down. I remember being bummed about it but my mom was utterly inconsolable, as if her very happiness depended upon a good melon. It confused me at the time and made me wonder just how important adults found watermelons. I didn’t get it.

Flash forward twenty-one years and oh, I get it now. A good melon is not to be underestimated. And the skill it takes to choose a good melon is so important as to change the entire course of your life forever. On that day, my mother wasn’t picking a watermelon, she was assessing her ability to find something good. She put all her hopes that very moment in finding a good melon. It was likely all that she felt she could control that day. And when that failed, she felt it was a sign.

Now that I’ve lived my own up close and personal experience in choosing several not-so-good melons, I realize keenly how hard it is to choose a good one. You can’t tell from the outside that much, the shell is rather thick and hard to penetrate (and the melons *like* it that way), sometimes they smell oh so good but inside they are either green or downright rotten, and even if you do get inside of them and they look good and smell good, they don’t always leave a good taste in your mouth. Maybe they’re mealy or they’re bittersweet, maybe they lack passionate juices or are just so plain tasting you want to just DIE. Maybe they’re so full of themselves they think they’re God’s gift to women or they fail to do anything, ANYTHING good for you. Or, or, orrrrrrrrrr….they never call or they only make plans with you last minute or they spend all of your money and sleep with all of your friends and act like you’re the ‘crazy’ one.

Yeah, that’s what kind of melons are out there…It’s so damn hard to find a good melon.


So you toss out the bad melons and decide you never much liked watermelon anyway. 😉

Photo Credit: Author with her mother and younger sister right about the time this story took place. It's likely my father took this photo.

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