I phoned my Dad yesterday to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. We shared pleasantries about the weather, about my kids, about our mutual frustrations with “smart” technology.
We spoke of love for one another; and he said that he and Mom have always been proud of me.
But do you know what touched me most profoundly?
It was when he said:
“Well, it’s time for me to peel my orange”.
Yes, my Dad and I both love eating oranges. And the more I think about it, the more I realize the layers of meaning that orange holds for me.
1. There is the plain meaning-
When I was a kid, my Dad and I challenged each other to a kind of “peel off”. Which of us could peel an orange quickest while keeping the peel intact?
With the spirit of good-natured competitors, we passed the championship back and forth, back and forth.
The great “peel off” was a playful tug-of-war; and as I grew older, it also reminded me that teenage angst wasn’t all I felt toward my Dad.
2. Associated meaning-
I can’t help connecting my father’s orange with the orange that Jewish feminists place beside the other symbolic items on a Seder plate these days. Their orange is meant to bring women’s voices into the Passover story, to recognize the meaningful work both men and women have undertaken in the timeless pursuit of human liberation.
The home I grew up in was filled with female voices—my mother’s, my two older sisters’s, my own–
And our voices were strengthened by the gender equality that permeated the atmosphere. Oh, sure, my brother finally made his appearance among us. He was the one tasked with mowing the lawn while we worked the kitchen—but it all just seemed like work to me.
And I must say, finding the orange among the other items—shank bone, matzah, cheroset, horse radish, and parsley—feels to me as validating as a loving embrace. Just imagine, treasure from my childhood has found its place among the artifacts of Jewish tradition.
3. Metaphoric meaning-
Getting back to the “peel off”, this contest was not as simple as you might imagine. For Dad and for me, the orange could have been a metaphor for life itself.
(To be continued…)