Adventures In Travel

Blood Orange

I had boarded the plane at Dulles with a dreadful cold. My ears had become clogged and painful and I spent a lot of time futilely shaking my head like a dog trying to clear them out. My sister and I spent the first few weeks of our travels in northern Europe – London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Bergen. I was cold all the time and it was still winter in all those pristine northern places so we got out our Eurail passes and boarded an overnight train to Italy. We were changing trains somewhere in Italy. Passing through the station I bought the most gorgeous orange. It was large and perfect. We had been strictly adhering to a $5/day budget and had not bought a single piece of fruit. At home, my mother served fruit with every meal. Fruit was an important part of my eating repertoire. I did not consider a meal complete without fruit. But these were different days. We cut out all nonessentials, including fruit. So, this one orange, this perfect piece of pricey precious fruit was a significant indulgence. We boarded the train and finding no seats, settled our bags, stood, along with an Italian family, at the end of a car. I opened my precious orange, peeling away the thick, perfect rind only to find what appeared to be rotten fruit. This perfect fruit was not orange. It was a deep purply scarlet and my face fell. Life was suddenly a weighty and sorrowful experience. All joy was gone from the world. This orange was no treasure. Its color was that of the putrid, fetid, odious, molded, rotten. But the Italian mother smiled and spoke the iconic Italian mother’s word of comfort, nourishment, empathy and love, “Mangia!” I showed her the foul offending fruit and again she smiled and encouraged me to eat, which, with a good deal of trepidation, I did. When in Rome…. I ate what I later learned, and ever after loved, was a Blood Orange. In 1972, we ate fruits and vegetables that were in season near where we lived. We did not have produce from across the sea. Now, a Blood Orange is not exciting, it is not a wonder, a discovery. I loved so much that this greatly anticipated treasure, which turned into a great disappointment, was actually more wonderful than I had thought possible. This is the joy of travel. It is eagerly anticipated, and then we find difficulties and disappointments, and ultimately we find so much that we could never have imagined. Oh hell, I suppose that is the joy of life itself.

Jean McGavin
2011, Bethlehem, CT

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