Cherries are in season. Cherries as gorgeous and red and decadent and as seductive as any apple in Eden there ever was. I saw them at the store and brought them home. I rinsed them under the cool water of the tap and then without even bothering to turn on the lights, I sat down alone in my kitchen and ate them one by one.
It was May of 1991. I was 31-years-old. My first husband and I, along with another couple, were in Europe. When you decide to take a two-week car trip with another couple, you know it will either go very well or very badly. The stars were aligned. The four of us spent two carefree weeks tooling around Paris, Aosta, Milan, Montreaux, Florence, Nice and Monaco having the time of our lives. We went to all the famous museums, walked along the shore of Lac Leman, stayed in a castle and sunbathed in Monaco. Things happened on that trip that are hysterical to us, but would be puzzling to others in the retelling.
Towards the end of the trip, as we were making our way back to Paris, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand in the French countryside. We impulsively purchased a bag of cherries – lovely, juicy, plump, fresh French cherries.
As the four of us sat under the shade of an ancient tree eating cherries and spitting the pits, my senses were unusually electrified. Every sensation was magnified. Perspiration, perfume and car exhaust riding the currents of the morning breeze, the blue of the sky and the blood red of the cherries, the gravelly French accent of the vendor, the laughter and chatter of our group, the humming of the nearby traffic. All of these sensations combined into a crystallizing moment in time and lodged into the cool deep of memory.
I remember being acutely aware of the moment, as though somehow outside of myself. I remember thinking that I always wanted to feel as intensely alive as I did in that moment. In fact and detail, eating cherries on the side of the road is an insignificant event but it represented one of those rare moments in life when all seems well with the world. I thought it would be like that forever, the four of us.
Three years later, my first husband died very suddenly. Soon thereafter, our friends divorced after more than twenty years of marriage. The photos of Provence are boxed up and stashed away. The memories have been swept up and put away as well.
Nothing more remains of that one morning in May but the sensation of cherries.
This post was originally published June 12, 2006.