I heard a tap on the glass and looked up from my desk. She was standing at the door, holding a brown paper bag and a silver bowl. My eyes lit up as I smiled and waved.
“Class, if you haven’t finished yet, you can set aside your spelling worksheets for now. We have a special guest – Jenny’s mom is here, and she has a treat for us all.”
I think the teacher might have said something else, but no one could hear her over the clamor of papers rustling, girls giggling, and metal scraping against linoleum as we rearranged our desks in a circle.
My mother had volunteered to come to my class and tell a story, so I had waited eagerly all day for her to arrive. She set the silver bowl down on a desk and then pulled out a giant red fruit from her bag. She then passed it around so we could all look at it before she began her story, which was the tale of Persephone.
After collecting the strange fruit back from the students, she rolled it in her hands and then placed it carefully in the silver bowl before scooting her chair in closer to the circle.
“The Greek god Zeus and the goddess of the harvest Demeter had a beautiful daughter named Persephone,” she told us.
“Persephone loved to help her mother in the fields, planting and tending to the crops. Over the years, the god of the underworld, Hades, would watch Persephone as she worked outside, and eventually he fell in love with her because she was so beautiful. Hades asked Zeus if he could marry his daughter, but Zeus refused because he knew how much her mother would miss her.”
We all listened attentively as my mother continued her story. She told us that one day, while Persephone was out picking flowers, Hades kidnapped her and took her down into the underworld to make her his wife.
When Demeter discovered that Persephone had been kidnapped, she stopped taking care of the crops so she could look for her daughter. Everything started to die, and people began to starve.
“Why didn’t she take care of the crops?”
“Because she was so sad. She missed her daughter so much, and she had to find her no matter what,” my mother answered.
“When Persephone was in the underworld, Hades offered her all kinds of wonderful feasts, but she wouldn’t eat anything. She didn’t want to take any food from Hades because she was afraid of him. But one day, Persephone got so hungry that she snuck into Hades’ garden and ate just six tiny seeds from a pomegranate.”
“Like that one!”
At this point, my mother stopped her story and asked me to help her with the pomegranate. She sliced the fruit in half, and held it up for everyone to see. The dark red seeds rest like little jewels in a honeycomb. It reminded me of the geode my uncle brought me from Florida – when he cracked it open, there were beautiful purple crystals inside.
She cut the fruit again into quarters and handed them to me. I pulled the seeds out, one by one, and put them into the silver bowl. They made a soft cracking sound as I pried each one out of its tight grip. When I had removed all the seeds, I passed the bowl around the classroom, and my mother told everyone to take a few to eat.
“But what part do you eat?” someone asked.
“You eat the whole thing – even the little white seed inside. It won’t hurt you.”
“Do I have to eat that part?”
My mother laughed, “No. You don’t have to eat the whole thing, but at least try it. The juice is delicious!”
I placed a seed into my mouth, bit down, and winced a little as the tart juice burst onto my tongue. I ate the whole thing, just like my mother said we could. The next one was much sweeter.
As we finished eating the pomegranate, my mother continued her story, “Zeus tried to get his daughter back from the underworld, but Hades told him that since she had eaten six pomegranate seeds, Persephone would have to stay there with him and be his wife. So for six months of the year, Persephone had to live with Hades. Then for the other six months, she could go home and be with her mother. So every year, when Persephone had to go back to the underworld, Demeter would get terribly sad, and she would let all the crops die. And that’s why all the trees lose their leaves and the plants die in the fall and winter.”
“Because her mother is sad?”
“Yes, because she misses her daughter so much that she can’t take care of any of the crops. And then when Persephone comes back every spring, Demeter is so happy that she plants the fields and makes everything grow again.”
My classmates asked a few more questions while my mother cleaned up the pomegranate remains and wiped out the bowl. As she was packing up to go home, a girl leaned over to me and asked, “How come your mom knows all this?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know. She just knows lots of stuff.”
“Oh, and ’cause she’s a gypsy.”
“She is?”
“What’s a gypsy?”
I didn’t answer. As my mother left the classroom, she winked at me and waved goodbye to the class. I waved back, my hand still stained red from the pomegranate.

20 Responses to “Harvest”

  1. asia Says:

    i was getting really into eating hot pickled cauliflower lately but tomorrow i am going to buy a pomegranate.

  2. jaymarie Says:

    lovely, jenny.
    really – i am glad you shared.

  3. Dave Says:

    SWEET :-)
    (no pun intended)

  4. spinner8 Says:

    Thank you for sharing. That reminds me of being a kid and being a parent, both.

  5. Roxie Says:

    This was just so wonderful…thank you.

  6. Jessica Says:

    This is a great writing, Jenny (Persephone is one of my favorite mythical stories)!

  7. Strode Says:

    Gypsies? You were raised by Gypsies? Man, that is cool. It makes being raised by wolves so boring.

  8. jenny Says:

    Thanks so much, you guys! Exotic fruit + Greek mythology = fun for all!
    As for being raised by gypsies, it’s not all that different than being raised by wolves. You still end up with food in your hair after every meal, and until I moved away from home, I thought every family sucked the marrow out of chicken bones. Guess not.

  9. Michael Says:

    It reminds me of the time my mother came to class and read Stone Soup and then we made stone soup. Put real stones in. (We cleaned them of course.) And then I threw up. And was humiliated. I haven’t been able to eat anything with stewed tomatoes in it since. Or stones for that matter.
    I like your story better. Because of the gypsies. And no barfing.

  10. Christie Says:

    This is such an amazing, sweet story for so many reasons…
    1. As a former 2nd grade teacher (now stay at home momma) I will definetly use this if I go back to the classroom!
    2. “Martha” just taught Courtney Thorne Smith how to cut one open last week without breaking the seeds… my husband had never seen on before so I got all teachery about it and even showed him one the next time we went to the grocery. He’s like “you don’t have to buy one just for me to see.” For the first time in 11 years he read my mind. :(
    Thank you

  11. shari Says:

    How positively beautiful! Just when I think I know what to expect here, you prove me wrong. In a good way. You know, like finding out that the ice cream you just indulged in was actually no-fat frozen yogurt only you never noticed the difference because it tasted THAT good?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Dar Jenny,
    Thank God! I’ve been trying to remember the word “pomegranate” all week!! I’ve been asking people the name for the red vegetable with seeds.They have repeating “tomato” to me like I’m not a native English speaker.
    It’s a fruit! Who knew!
    Did your mom REALLY come to your class to tell Greek Myths? What a cool mom you have.

  13. nina Says:

    Were there gypsies in the US? I thought it was a central Europe thing.
    Maybe we’re related. My mother once said that our ancestors were gypsies and I proudly paraded that little fact to all my kid friends. Then suddenly she changed her mind and started saying adamantly that they’re not. I think she’s lying. She has the look of a gypsy and I have the behaviors of one.

  14. jenny Says:

    M: Are you kidding me? The stone soup story is brilliant, even with the puking! What a great idea (the soup, not the puking)!
    C: Thanks! And I’d love to have seen that Martha – I need to know how to open one the right way. Probably involves some twisting.
    S: See… I have a softer side, too, don’t I? And just like non-fat yogurt, in a few years they’ll probably determine that I cause cancer, too.
    V: are you telling me you’ve never had a pomegranate? We’ll have to remedy that…
    N: Aren’t there gypsies everywhere? My mother is Sicilian, so somewhere there’s a little bit of everyone’s blood flowing through her veins. Besides, I think gypsy is more a state of mind than anything else.

  15. number4of5 Says:

    Man that Hades guy is kind of a jerk.
    And cheap.

  16. peefer Says:

    It’s amazing your mom kept the attention of the class. My eyes would have glazed over. (It’s that mythology thing.) I guess she (and you) know how to keep one interested. Nice story. ‘Worth coming out of the bathroom for. Hi.

  17. romy Says:

    oh jenny, this was great. thank you. what a wonderful post – and reminder.
    and beautifully written, friend.

  18. gillespie Says:

    Hey, Jen…
    Thanks for posting on my website, I feel so honored!! Also, thanks for linking me in the Blog Pound. In my record search the other day, I came across an old 78 rpm and I thought of you. The song was called Walk, Jenny, Walk, and I would love to send this to you. Drop me an email if you are interested. twgill13@hotmail.com

  19. teahouseblossom Says:

    Great story!! And I’ve loved pomegranates since I was a kid. Instead of Kool-Aid stains on my face, I had pomegranate stains.

  20. TCho Says:

    I love pomegranate seeds. They give a nice sweet crunch in salads. And I like the juice too from fresh pomegranates. But I can’t stand the bottled POM juice. It takes like rotten grape juice…which I guess would be wine. lol.