The first image that comes to mind when I picture my grandmother is the memory of her standing by her kitchen sink peeling peaches. The sink has a window above it that looks out to the front lawn, and from the window you can see through the crabapple tree, whose hard fruits can really hurt if you get whacked by them at high speed, like when you drive over them in a bladeless riding mower with your cousins.
I close my eyes and see her standing there, sometimes humming softly, hunching over the sink slightly to make sure nothing falls onto the floor. She peels the skins off and sets them aside to throw on the makeshift compost pile behind the workshop. Each clear glass dish she will serve us contains an even number of peach slices. These are the same dishes she’s used all my life, from which I’ve eaten peaches, raspberry Jello, and Chex cereal with sugar crystals sprinkled on top.
I don’t know how other grandmothers do it, but mine peels fruit towards her body with a paring knife. To remove the skin from peaches, she cuts the peach in half and then quarters and picks up a slice skin-side up. She cleverly flicks the thin skin up with the blade of the paring knife and pulls the skin back slowly from its clinging grip to the tender flesh of the fruit. I’m pretty certain you’re meant to move the knife away from you when slicing, but that’s just not how she does it. That’s not how I do it either, because I learned from her. I learned to peel apples and then peaches by watching my grandmother slice fruit for us at every meal. She used to let us sprinkle sugar on peaches when we were kids, something we loved then that horrifies me now. How could I have masked the luscious floral flavor of a truly ripe peach, freshly picked that week from less than a mile away? I guess I didn’t care about quality as a kid, rather the quantity of the sugary lift I could get.
Her hands are rough and dry from years of washing dishes, laundry, and taking care of everyone. Her thin skin reminds me of the tissue paper from gift bags. She takes her wedding rings off most days when she’s doing the wash. I like to take the rings and hold them in my palms, marveling at how the gold has thinned from so many years of wear. The delicate rings never bend. I slip them on my fingers, twirling them around and around as I watch her own fingers move over the fruit.