By PatZi (with a Z!)
The other day I was interviewing a writer about her book. It’s about gratitude, and I told her a story about that happened to me when I was a child. Since she liked the story I thought I would share it with you.
Recently for some reason I had a craving for an orange. I don’t actually eat oranges very often and I don’t think I had eaten one for several years. Definitely it was before the pandemic when I would go to Yellow Bank Groves a seasonal store open from October to May. I don’t know if they were open during the pandemic, but then I didn’t get out during those bleak and blurry years.
Anyway, I decided I wanted an orange. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that my local supermarket wanted $1.69 for one orange. It was outrageous! As much as I wanted an orange, I just couldn’t spend that kind of money. It’s as bad as spending $5.50 for a dozen eggs.
At the time here in Clearwater, Florida we were going through a bitter cold spell. There was even sleeting rain and wind that I felt certain my brother was sending down from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just to tease me. He thinks it’s funny that for a Yooper, I don’t like the cold. He loves it and every year he hopes that they will break the snow record of 342 inches.
The next day I decided to brave the bad weather. I was determined to have an orange. So I bundled up and realized that I didn’t have a pair of gloves. I don’t think I’ve had a pair in thirty years. With my hands stuffed in my pockets I headed for the vegetable market.
Surely the price for oranges would be more reasonable, I assured myself as the wind ripped through my thin jacket. Not by much I discovered. Two for $3.00. Saved myself a whole 18 cents. When I got home with my two precious Navel oranges, I sat down at the kitchen table and admired them. They really were beautiful. When I was a kid, we didn’t shop in supermarkets.
Mostly everything came from my grandfather’s farm. In the summer my aunts bottled fruits in Mason jars. So, all winter long we ate apples, peaches, pears, and plum but no oranges. Except in December when my Uncle Waino, who was a wrestler and lived in Port Richey, sent us a wooden crate of them. They would arrive on a train from Chicago and the station master would
call us to pick them up.
We were so proud; No one else in our little town got a crate of oranges. And I did love those wooden crates. For years they were my only bookcases.
As I sat admiring the sheer beauty of a perfect orange, I remembered how my sister, Natalie, and I would sit by the window to peel them in the sunshine. Outside the snow would be up the edge of the window sill, but inside we were snug and warm. We liked to pretend we were in Florida. As we slowly peel the orange, because we had to save the rind for my mother to candy, we would marvel at the mist that would escape when we opened a section. We could see it in the rays of the sun. It was almost like magic as we breathed in the scent that was so exotic to us.
We would talk about a trip we hoped our parents would one day to Florida where we could see Uncle Waino wrestle and alligator. He had sent us a photo one year of him doing it. He was called the Fighting Finn. Or sometimes the Mad Viking. Florida sounded so heavenly. You never had to wear a snowsuit or galoshes and you could pick an orange off a tree whenever you felt like it.
I am grateful for that memory. I am grateful to my Uncle Waino. He was a big tough guy, a wrestler with a heart of gold. And I am grateful for so much, especially for my sister Natalie and my baby brother, Thom. I am grateful to my mother who would make orange cake in the middle of winter. And for all the neighbors who just happened to drop by because the knew she would have cupcakes that she would give them to take home.
I shared this story with Kristine Newell, the author of a wonderful book called: The Habit of Grateful: A Handbook for Gratitude. She tells the amazing story of her own life and about the lessons she learned along the way about the importance of gratitude. A great read and wonderful book to get you thinking about how you can express your gratitude for the blessings in your life. Her book is available online or go to her website: www.guidetogratitude.com
And I am grateful to all of you.
ABOUT: PatZi Gil hosts “Joy on Paper” (radio-joyonpaper.com) a nationally syndicated program for writers and those who dream of writing. The program can be heard in the Bay area
Bright Idea: Lighten Up—Let the Sunshine In
By PatZi (with a Z!)
Florida has been known as “The Sunshine State” since 1970 when the
legislature in Tallahassee voted to make that simple (yet effective) three-word phrase the official state nickname.
Sadly, Louisiana State Legislature decreed "You Are My Sunshine" as
its state song. That would have been the perfect choice for Florida,
which in 1935 picked "Old Folks at Home," also known as “Swanee
“You Are my Sunshine” is a popular tune having been translated into at
least 30 languages and recorded by more 350 artists, including Gene
Autry, Ray Charles, and Johnny Cash.
The Beatles have their own bright ditty titled “Good Day Sunshine” that
includes the line, “I need to laugh and when the sun is out I’ve got something I can laugh about.”
If it ever drops “ Swanee River,” perhaps Florida can have the last laugh
on Louisiana by switching to the Fab Four’s lively upbeat jingle.
Speaking of “Good Day Sunshine,” did you know that since 1910
St. Petersburg has been known as “The Sunshine City”? That’s when news-
paperman Lew Brown, editor of The Evening Independent, started a
promotion in which he offered a free newspaper to “everybody every
day the sun does not shine on St Petersburg.”
That free paper promotion lasted 76 years—until The Evening
Independent closed down in 1986. During that time, the popular
afternoon newspaper made good on its offer 296 times.
One final tidbit: The Tampa Bay area used to have a newspaper called
“The Clearwater Sun”—talk about a bright idea.
I am now happy to carry on the tradition of newspaper writing – and
want to thank Kevin Leonard and CVA Tampa Bay for the
opportunity to share my column, AfterWords, with all of you. My goal is to
amuse you, inspire you, and mostly to encourage you to find the JOY
With AfterWords I will be able to share lessons I have learned during
the past seven years since Joy on Paper premiered on TanTalk Radio
Network in Clearwater, Florida. In that time, I have had interviewed
eleven Mystery Writer of America Grand Masters, over 250 New York
Times bestselling authors – and even the US Poet Laureate.
They have inspired me – and I hope that AfterWords will inspire you to write your own story.
People always ask me how they can become better writers. My
suggestion is to read poetry. You learn how valuable each word is when
you read – or better yet – write poetry. I would like to leave you with
this poem from one of my favorite poets: