Thursday, December 30, 2010


Early Happy Writers Society Meeting! Since I won't be around tomorrow.

My mom used to be a travel agent. Do you remember those people? They planned vacations and set up itinerary and stuff in the days before Expedia and Travelocity, etc. While she stayed at home for most of my life, I do remember this time, even though I couldn't have been more than five.

Above everything, I remember the tangerines.

Helen, the woman who watched me and my brother, had a big tangerine tree in her backyard and one on the side of the house. I would climb the fence with Cindy, her daughter, and sit up there eating sweet, tangy tangerines as we watched the dogs wreak havoc on the yard.

Oh, the dogs. I'm not talking a couple cute, family dogs—I'm talking about NINE freaking Basset Hounds. Helen bred them, and there was one big old stud and eight frequently pregnant hounds running about. Actually, Cindy and I were up in the tangerine tree for a few reasons:

1. Those tangerines were tasty, and sometimes lunch felt forever away.

2. So we didn't get trampled by nine gigantic Basset Hounds. Have you seen a Basset Hound? If you have, you know they could plow a five-year-over right over.

3. Because Helen had sent us out there to clean up the dog poop, and we were avoiding the task at all costs. Take a moment to imagine just how much poop that is. And not little Chihuahua turds. This stuff was was nasty and not small. I'll spare you additional description.

Now that I think about it, this may be why I have never desired to own a dog.

But the tangerines! I'm telling you, there is nothing like picking one right off the tree, peeling it open, and spitting out seeds as you consume slice after slice. I can taste that memory, even through the Basset Hound mayhem.

When I think about the brief time Helen watched us, I am always surprised by how little things bothered me then. Not that is was a horrible place, but I remember standing in a cobweb-filled corner, watching a spider crawl up the wall, terrified this spider would decide to jump on me before my time was up (Hmm, this may be the origin of my spider fears. I feel like I'm in therapy.). I remember the smell, 80% Basset Hound pee and 20% old, dirty house. I remember being forced to nap, even though I was way too old for a nap.

But overriding those details is the time Cindy and I were "napping," but secretly watching the Olympics, the first I can recall seeing. It was a winter Olympics, because we watched the figure skaters, swooning over their pretty costumes and graceful movements. How amazing they were. How beautiful. I imagined for weeks after that I was a figure skater.

Helen had cool toys, too. A big, big room full of them. She had older kids, and she'd kept all their classic push cars and kitchen sets and rocking horses. There was always something to play with in there, hidden things just waiting to get used again.

And, of course, there were the tangerines, little, sweet treasures in the midst of a lot of crap. Literally. But that's how life is, isn't it? You can focus on the crap, or you can focus on the tangerines. One doesn't erase the other, but the one you focus on drastically changes your perspective and attitude.

Let's remember the tangerines.


  1. "You can focus on the crap, or you can focus on the tangerines. One doesn't erase the other, but the one you focus on drastically changes your perspective and attitude."

    Natalie, that is so perceptive...and just plain smart.

    Brilliant post.

  2. That's a beautiful metaphor Natalie!

    I like it.


  3. Great post. It seems that everyone is getting a bit reflective with the year ending.

    I have a 60 pound Basset hound that thinks he is a lapdog sitting on me right now. At least he works to hold up my laptop. I only wish he didn't smell like a bag of fritos...

  4. Tony, a single Basset hound is one thing, nine Basset hounds is a very different thing:) I don't think I'd mind one.

  5. That atmosphere would drive me over the edge. At least as an adult. Awesome that you're able to focus on the tangerines, though. I can almost taste them.

  6. Kids often survive the havoc none the worse. Here's to a New Year's harvest of lots of tangerines.

  7. It's those sweet tangerine moments that we can conjure up when faced with the yucky stuff.

    Loved this post, Natalie!

    Happy New Year!

  8. nomnomnom tangerines :) And I remember watching the winter olympics the first time and also been enchanted by the figure skaters *sigh* so pretty :)

    The Arrival, book one of the BirthRight Trilogy, on Amazon 1.1.2011

  9. Tangerines are delicious.

    Thanks for this, girl :)

  10. Lovely! Our perspective truly does control our reality ... and certainly our memories.

  11. It's so interesting what day-to-day happenings stay with us as we grow older, even in little snippets. The spider and watching the Olympics and of course the tangerines stuck in your mind after all these years amidst all of the other memories of your childhood. That brings another thing to mind - you never know what someone is going to remember about you. Let it be good and positive.

  12. Happy New Year, Natalie. I hope it really is a good year for you and you get the recognition you deserve for your writing.

    And lots of tangerines.