A Windy Road to Switzerland
When I was in the sixth grade, every day on my way to school I’d sneak into my neighbor’s yard and pick loquats from his loquat tree. Hidden between dark green leaves, I’d take as many as I could carry and run. I suppose it’s fair to say I was stealing them, but they were big as limes, a deep orange, bruised just enough to know each bite will present insurmountable satisfaction (and they never failed me, not once). Shessek they’re called in my native tongue. Unwashed, I would eat them on my daily walk, sticky juice dripping down my hand. Each orange globe had three slimy pits in the middle, smooth like river rocks, dark like the earth from which they sprung forth.
When I finished the sixth grade I forgot all about my loquats on the neighbor’s tree, the daily rush of stealing them, the quiet moments I spent squeezing their pits as hard as I could. I packed this memory away neatly, folded each corner like an old blanket and placed it in a small box in the far corner of the attic.
Fast forward fifteen years to a late morning walk in Florida with David, Uncle Larry, and a sweet but anxious dog named Sammy. As the sun makes its usual climb and my Ukrainian skin begins to crisp, we talk about houses, and rivers, and boats, and alligators.
And then: “I have to show you a tree!” Uncle Larry remembers. To my great surprise when I sent my gaze in the direction he was pointing, there stood a small but formidable loquat tree. Now, these were a different breed than the ones from all those years past, but loquats nonetheless! Memory quickly washing over me, oh how I wished for those plump, sweet loquats of my youth.
Fast forward again two and a half months and David and I are driving a semi-automatic, gurgling Peugeot on a road trip from Annecy, France to Greyères, Switzerland. David’s driving because when I tried to drive this evil car, with its strange sounds and unpredictable European transmission, I was possessed by such hysteria I confessed all my sins (and more), and asked for nothing but forgiveness (though my loquat theft did not require absolution).
We’re driving too fast to photograph the timeless mountains and clear blue water this road unfolds before me. My dismay is audible and unpleasant, and so is the pressure on David’s bladder, and so are the hunger pangs, so we leave the big road and turn onto a little road, which leads into a little village on a big lake with big mountains and big clouds and little boats full of little people in the big water.
At the top of a hill, forgotten by the world, we stumble into a market. Rummaging through the isles for some healthy food, we settled on a ball of Bufala Mozzarella, blueberries, and a five pound bag of organic carrots. As we turn to leave, a heap of vibrant globes catches my eye. There they stood: sunset orange, big as limes, perfectly bruised loquats. Slimy pits and all.