Dreaming of an Orange Christmas
November/December 2012 Urban Farm editor's letter
by Roger Sipe, Urban Farm Editor
Photo courtesy of Hemera/Thinkstock
As a child, I never understood why an orange (as well as an apple and various types of nuts, still in their shells) always ended up in my Christmas stocking. Didn’t Santa Claus know that my family already had plenty of fruits and nuts in our house (especially my two older sisters!)? I never "asked” for an orange; I didn’t even particularly like oranges back then. So why was this fat man in a red suit stuffing my stocking with them? Couldn’t that space be better filled with chocolates or Hot Wheels or a Lifesavers holiday box (which would inevitably end up in my gloating next-door neighbor and best friend’s stocking)?
As per custom, after dumping out my stocking on the floor on Christmas morning, I would rummage through the pile to rid myself of all the fruit and nuts, putting them in the appropriate bowls that were on our kitchen counter (and where they were supposed to be in the first place!). As I got older (and wiser), I realized that the fruit wasn’t coming from old St. Nick but from my parents. They were the ones who were vandalizing my stocking by putting in that "health food.”
Upon this realization, I quickly informed my mother that I no longer required an orange in
my stocking. Yet, every year, there it would be.
I pleaded, begged and finally gave up, accepting the fact that each year I would be getting an orange for Christmas. (Even as an adult, when I would return home for the holidays, there would inevitably be a stocking hanging from the fireplace mantle … with an orange in it.)
Last year was the first year that my wife and I went back to my folks’ for Christmas with our little addition. Yes, my mom had a stocking for her new grandson, too, yet there was not an orange in it. Mine, however, did have an orange. (Apparently, age is not a consideration as to if you get a stocking in my mom’s house). This time, I didn’t stick it in the fruit bowl. I ate it — enjoyed it, in fact. I had finally realized what the orange meant.
When my parents were kids, fresh fruit in the winter was a big deal. There weren’t 24-hour supermarkets back then in north-central Arkansas, where they grew up. To get fresh fruit during the holidays was somewhat of a miracle. And it wasn’t cheap. My grandparents probably considered oranges a luxury, so to buy them for the kids for Christmas was, in fact, a little sacrifice. It showed the kids how much their parents cared for them.
Gee, what a brat I was! I wonder if my parents knew that one day I would understand, and that’s why they kept up the tradition. Today, an orange in the stocking, for me, is a wonderful gift.
It’s a call to a time when priorities were different. Imagine: Americans used to think that food was a precious resource — a present, in fact!
So, yes, my son will always get an orange in his stocking each Christmas. One day, he’ll ask me why, and I’ll tell him: "Because I love you!”
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