Green Balls

I was in the kitchen, preparing ricotta cheese-stuffed shells and simmering spaghetti sauce for dinner when Mom got up from her nap.  She rolled the Red Menace up to the kitchen doorway and parked.

“Did you have a nice nap?” I asked, stirring minced fresh basil into the sauce.

“I guess,” she replied.  “What are you cooking?”

“Stuffed shells and spaghetti sauce for dinner,” I said, sprinkling in Italian herbs and a bit of sugar.

“Humpf,” she grunted, with the emphasis on ‘impressive effort on your part, Patty’ coming through as clearly as if she’d uttered the words. Yes, unfortunately, I can decipher her grunts.

She gunned the Red Menace, did a quick U-turn and motored across the dining room, where she came to an abrupt stop in front of the picture window that overlooks the backyard.  She sat for a few moments, panning the yard, looking left, then right, then left again, before she performed another smart U-turn and came back to the kitchen doorway.

“What are those green balls?” she asked.

I gave myself a few moment’s to consider the multitude of possibilities.  Did she spot the first Christmas tree of the season in someone’s window?  Is she going color blind and the oranges in the tree behind us look green?  Do I have a big wad of minced basil on my tee shirt?  I finally gave up and asked, “What green balls?”

“The ones back there,” she said, waving at the window and in the general direction of Mexico.

“Back there?  Do you mean the grapefruit tree in the next yard?  The fruit’s mostly yellow, not green.” I offered.

“No, not that.  I know what a grapefruit is,” she exclaimed, rolling her eyes.

“Then what?  I don’t see any green balls in the backyard,” I whined.

“They’re right there, next to the weed box,” she explained.

“Weed box?  Oh, you mean the raised garden.  Next to the…”  A light bulb finally went off and I replied, “Tomatoes.  Those are tomatoes, Mom.”

“Oh, okay.  I kind of thought so, but I wasn’t sure,” she said, turning to the right and heading into the living room.

“So, you know what a grapefruit growing on a tree is, but not a tomato growing on a tomato plant?” I called after her.

“Well if we lived in Michigan I’d know what it was,” she said as she parked next to the loveseat.

“What difference could it possibly make whether you lived in Arizona or Michigan?  A tomato plant is a tomato plant,” I said.

“Because they don’t have grapefruit trees in Michigan,” she exclaimed as she turned on the TV and settled in.

I stepped out of the doorway, ready with a snappy retort just as soon as I could get my jaw to close, when I felt Bill’s hands on my shoulders.  “Did I hear you talking about the tomato plant?” he asked.

“Yeah.  Do you think they’ll be ripe by 5:00?” I asked before retreating back into the kitchen.

“I doubt it.  Why?”

“Because you can’t make a Bloody Mary without tomato juice,” I muttered.

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