If summer vacation were a play it would be a play in three acts. Act I would be ‘Epidemic: in Which we spend a fortune at the doctor’s office”, Act II would be ‘Next time we will put a photo ID around Thomas’ neck and put him on a separate flight to Mississippi’, and Act III is ‘We’ve got our Daddy back- at least for a little while!’
We have exactly one week before Nora Ruth starts 1st grade and two weeks before Clif starts his next semester at Saint Matthews. I am feeling a little pressed for time. My biggest worry is that the black hole that is school and schedules and life is about to suck my eldest baby up for good but everyday continues to be an adventure and I have so little time to get my act together and update you on all of the fun we’ve had this summer before I’m a season behind.
So the kickoff to our summer was unpleasant with coughs, colds, and drugs for weeks on end. It really did take a while for all of that to dissipate and in the meantime I grew pretty tired of waiting around for everyone to be 100%. At the end of the school year I bought a small, spiral-bound guide book to Camana Way, the walking path at the entrance to Camana Bay. The path is planted with many native species of plants and the guide book helps you locate the plants and describes how each plant was used in the past as well as its environmental value to the island.
I had very big plans for this book and we started our first trek through Camana Way in earnest but it wasn’t too long before I discovered that I could not decipher the book, answer a billion questions from the girls, swat the mosquitos, keep Thomas somewhere on the path between the lizard poo and the busy road, and wipe the sweat on my forehead fast enough to keep from dripping on and ruining my handy new book. It was so freakin’ hot out there!
Of course my eldest is most excited about plants with berries or larger, fruit-like objects than can be pulled off for inspection and, she hopes, tasted. I have to make a quick detour here and tell you that her hunter-gatherer instinctive fire was quelled several weeks ago when she swallowed a guinep seed. The guinep fruit is jelly-like, surrounds a rather large pit, and is really a yummy sweet-sour combo. It grows on a large tree that resembles a hackberry tree across the fence from our backyard. Our friend, Carmelita, who hails from Guiana, grew up eating guineps and introduced us to the fruit. Carmelita is very wary about giving the little kids guineps as they are easy to swallow and/or choke on. Nora Ruth was obviously worried about the seed, and in fact she told me several times that her tummy hurt. Clif and I decided that we should ‘check’ to make sure that the guinep seed found its way out again and Nora Ruth began running to the bathroom every 10 minutes; she was very anxious to see it gone.
A sweltering hot, summer day on Camana Way, with the guinep seed-swallowing incident looming in her near future, Nora Ruth was hoping for a taste of any and every berry on that path. She finally pointed to a lantern-like, orange berry growing on a small tree and I wiped sweat, turned pages, and made the occasional dash after Thomas until finally I located the tree in my book. It was called Eugenia Uniflora or Surinam Cherry and the description said, “Tasty fruit, high in vitamin C”. The kids were delighted but I insisted that we ‘google’ first then eat. Google confirmed that Surinam cherries are edible and full of vitamin C. We sampled different shades- from orange to deep red and found that the deep-red berries were sweetest. Although the cherries are sweet, they are also quite tart and have a complex flavor. We also discovered that the pits were much more difficult to extract than those of a regular cherry.
We visited Camana Way several more times, always most excited to check for ripe cherries, and finally one day in mid-July we found the trees were loaded with dark red cherries and we filled our bucket. The girls wanted to make a cherry cobbler, but the pits were so difficult to remove that our cherries were quite squished and didn’t seem suited for cobbler. Plan B was hatched. Nora Ruth and I made a compote one afternoon and I baked it into the bottom of a chocolate cheesecake later that night. Chocolate cheesecake is about as good as it gets, so its hard to say how essential the cherry compote was, but I’m pretty sure these three loved it.