Tomatoes

Sometime in 1893 the Supreme Court had to declare the tomato a vegetable. It had something to do with tariffs and tomato farmers a decade earlier and something else I can’t remember now.

This must have turned everyone’s world upside down. People in the grocery store buying their tomatoes and learning that they’re actually a vegetable despite the seeds. Then again, common cultural tradition declared tomatoes a vegetable long before the Supreme Court had to.

Sometime in 2012 my mom had to tell me my dad wasn’t a good person. It had something to do with emotional abuse and manipulation from decades earlier and something else I don’t want to remember now.

This turned my world upside down. Learning that my dad was actually a horrible person despite the few good memories I had of him. The seeds of being a good father were eaten by the birds and carried away never to be seen again.

Sometimes I think back and wonder what would have happened if my mother had never told me anything. If I’d continued to live in dark, blind ignorance. But unlike those who continue to believe that a tomato is a fruit, I think it would have been difficult to ignore what judges decide.

After my mom told me everything, I started to see things for myself. The tomato seeds were erased from my brain. Images of broken doors and broken hearts crowded in instead. The birds were flying away every time I thought of him.

I’ve never told my dad that I know. I’ve never told him what I’ve come to remember and I’ve never let him know all I’ve been told. Even so, I’ve imagined it countless times. If I were to say something, I think it would go like this:

You turned me into something bruised. You turned me into the anxious pit of worry that I am. You made me something I was never supposed to be. You turned me from someone brave and exuberant and happy into someone scared and lonely and constantly wishing for something better.

So don’t act like it’s all okay. Don’t show up to be seen. Don’t make me change you. Don’t make your daughter beg for a relationship with you. Don’t make me responsible for you. Don’t make me gather the seeds from the birds. Don’t make me the lonely gardener who constantly searches for the seeds left behind. Don’t make me wait to tell you what I know.

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