Monday, March 21, 2011

on clementines

photo: jetheriot

My clementine memories are neatly arranged in a little wooden crate in my brain. When I try to grab one of them to savor and remember, they all come tumbling out – listening to Oh My Darling Clementine on a record player in second grade, savoring clementine preserves on a beach in Southern France, cupping a clementine in my hand on a balcony in San Diego, and overhearing a conversation in a park in Atlanta.

Sitting in Piedmont Park several years ago, I heard a man yell “clementine” out of the blue to another man sitting cross-legged on his blanket. Being a collector of clementine memories, my ears pricked up. I turned to them and asked “clementine?” As it turned out, the two had been watching the dogs in the park and were philosophizing on their intelligence when the brains of poodles became the topic of conversation, eventually taking the form of a question which neither of them could answer, at least not at first: how big is the brain of a poodle? Citrus fruit being familiar as a standard of comparison for bodily organs and tumors, the two compared poodle brains to citrus fruit. Orange seemed big; kumquat seemed small. Clementine – when they thought of it – seemed Goldilocks. I joined their conversation and we talked for an hour or two before someone suggested a movie and we went from the park to the cinema. The movie was about memory and attempts to scientifically erase it. One of the main characters – oddly enough – was named Clementine. In a scene at the beginning of the movie, Clementine recounts her clementine memories to a man she just met on the bus. She starts with Oh My Darling Clementine, then the rest of her memories tumble out.

Clementines are sweet and juicy, seedless and easy to peel. Tangerines are just as juicy, but I have no memories of tangerines.