Today was National Watermelon Day and it was also my birthday. That’s a lot to celebrate. And we did. We really, really did.
I started today with a nice bowl of fresh cut watermelon. I love watermelon. Always have. That’s why having National Watermelon Day celebrated on my birthday is some kind of kismet. On of my favorite memories of watermelon is being at The Lake (summer cottage – we discussed that yesterday – pay attention) which was a place where you didn’t leave the house all that often. House on the water, cousins and siblings to play with, plus you are 8 years old – why would you leave? In any case, one of the highlights of the summer was the festival in town which came once a year for a weekend and I think benefitted our local church. Rides, games, bingo, food – the whole works and the perfect summer excursion for any kid (or adult too I imagine). They had booths there that let you put your money down (I think it was a quarter) and they would spin the giant wheel and if your number came up, you would win the prize. I’m sure I was given an allotment of money for the evening, so I carefully weighed the options on where to spend my hard not-earned cash. That’s when I saw the booth where the prizes were Watermelons. Oh yeah! I put my money on my lucky number 10, the whirring and clicking of the wheel began and gradually slowed to a tick before plopping on my number. I won! It’s still something I brag about to this day. The best part of it is the memory of an 8 year old boy trying to carry around a full watermelon throughout a vast fairground looking to find his parents and show off his great prize. It is the image of struggle and determined perseverance. I feel watermelons were bigger back then – more oblong and heavier too. They had actual seeds then as well. But I digress. I eventually made it to my parents, to our car and then to home where the sweet taste of prize watermelon had never tasted so sweet or so rewarding.
This morning’s watermelon was not that. It froze a bit in our fridge which is never good for flavor. It was still edible and quite refreshing. A good start to the day.
My next celebration was to try and spread the Watermelon joy to my nearby nieces and nephews. I wanted to give them that same feeling I had of being a little kid and having your very own watermelon. I made a quick trip to Clements, our local grocery store (the IGA as some folks call it), and I picked up five nice looking melons. Surprisingly the clerk did not ask me about my purchase when I hit the checkout line. She gave me a little bit of a strange look but no questions. Was she just not interested? Does she see this kind of thing all the time? Is she afraid to ask?
I placed them gently in our car, added some little tags, just to be festive, and then delivered to the locals. I was hoping to just drop them on the stoop and sneak away undetected, kind of like some sort of Watermelon fairy, and that’s what I did for my nephew Ben and for Brix and Wavy too. But my nieces Savvy and Eva were home, so I got to deliver to them in person. They were excited to see me and gave me some great birthday love including two rounds of “Happy Birthday” and even a little cake that their mom had picked up for me that morning. Sweet. We had a little impromptu party. That’s the power of Watermelon. It brings smiles to old and young.
I thought my Watermelon celebration was done for the day and that we would just move on to the celebration of my birthday. Lola had arranged for us to go to dinner with her sisters (all of them excepting Cherie). Her sister Becky’s husband Jeff was there too and it was quite a crew. We headed to Providence to a spot on Federal Hill called Andino’s Italian Resteraunte. Fabulous place with great food! After getting seated, I got my first peek at the beverage menu and noticed that they had a whole page of Sangrias in the primary spot on the menu – lots of different flavors and varieties – it must be their thing. In any case, there was a Watermelon Sangria, so I had to get it and I did. I think that’s a rule of this quest – that if I am in a spot and whatever I am celebrating that day happens to pop up in some form, I am obliged to get that item. In any case, the Sangria was delightful. A bit sweeter than I usually like for my cocktail, but still nice and refreshing, and festive.
Before long the table was filled with appetizers and the air was full of happy laughter and fun. The Brutha-hood (as the sisters like to call themselves) can get a bit loud, but this restaurant seemed perfect for us. We were outside in a patio area behind the building – almost like a private garden. There were a few other tables around and none seemed to mind our frivolity. It was close to a perfect night. We all drooled when our dinners came, tasted each others dishes and filled up way too fast. Our waiter Gary was in tune with our vibe – we were just relaxing – so he didn’t rush us and he genuinely liked seeing us have some fun. By the end of the meal, the sky had turned dark and we all had our entrees wrapped up so we could enjoy them again in the days ahead. We leaned back in bliss waiting for the dessert menu dance to begin. My seat had me facing away from the door (Isn’t that the first rule of Italian restaurants – never have your back to the door?) and as I stared off into the distance thinking about my full belly, Gary came out with a beautiful homemade cake with a candle in it. It was a cake my Lola had made which looked just like a Watermelon. It was perfect in every way.
And delicious too. One of the million sweet things Lola does for me is to make me a special cake every year for my birthday. She’s not an everyday baker, but when she does, she’s got real talent. She’s adventurous too. This cake was made with Watermelon Puree and with Watermelon Jell-O. Plus food coloring for the look. This could have been my most favorite cake ever. So special in design and thought, and really great cake taste. The hint of Watermelon was present, but very subtly and definitely not overbearing. When we drove home, she told me the steps she had to take to keep it a secret from me. I’m not a snoop or anything like that, I just notice things so for instance if I see eggs in the trash, I wonder when Lola had eggs. It’s hard to keep a mystery from me. But Lola did. She’s something else. That’s why I married 9 years ago tomorrow.
What a day! It really was one of the best birthday celebrations ever. Plus all the kind words and messages on Facebook always bring you joy. One of the things I learned today (on Day 3 of this quest) is that this celebrating thing spreads. I wasn’t expecting that, at least to happen so fast, but so many people seem to be following along and cheering for us.
They are taking part. It really brings me joy. One of the best messages I got today was this picture from my sister-in-law Lesley and her daughter Kate, both snacking on Watermelon and joining the celebration. It’s really fun to see others celebrating. Today I was filled with joy and I thank all those who contributed to that. And I thank Watermelon too, for being the best fruit ever and for making a fine helmet for my niece Savvy.
Tomorrow: National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day