rotten bananas and trail mix

In my house, we never ate the bananas.

My mom would buy them each week during her trips to the grocery store – trips that still are, by the way, entirely predictable and reliable like cool weather pulled in by fall, stains on a freshly-washed tablecloth, or the alarm on my watch that I can’t figure out how to turn off. Each week she would head off to the grocery and each week she would return with a car full of bags.

And always with bananas.

Bananas that would go uneaten.

It’s not that I don’t like the fruit because I do. What’s not to like? …good source of potassium, kind of mushy in your mouth, quite tasty, fun to peel … you get the picture. But if I’ve learned anything in my 24 years – and I hope I’ve learned more than this – it’s that uneaten bananas lead to rotten bananas. And rotten bananas mean that my mother is going to make the most delicious banana bread in the history of all banana breads.

And banana bread beats plain old bananas any day.

This weekend, I took a trip to western Kentucky to visit my grandmother … and great aunts and uncles and regular aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and too many cousins to count. Many of them I hadn’t seen in several years and all anyone could talk about was how much we had all changed.

My brother is so tall … I cut my hair … my sister looks like she lost weight … my nephew is getting so big … my great aunt looks fully recovered from her bought with cancer … the list could go on. And in some ways they were all right. We did look different.

But later that night after my little brother and I had said our goodbyes to the rest of the family and were headed along Highway-1481 through Land Between the Lakes on our way back to the hotel, I really took a good look at the kid sitting in the passenger seat next to me. Sure, he was taller. His facial hair seemed to be a little thicker than I remember, his jaw line more pronounced. But I watched closely as he picked through the bag of trail mix we had grabbed at the gas station on our way out of town – diligently sifting through the contents and selecting only the raisens and pretzels out of the mix. After he’d thoroughly canvased the snack, he passed the bag of peanuts and M&Ms to me without a word. No pause in conversation, no need for discussion.

You see, I only eat the peanuts and M&Ms in the trail mix. And while my brother likes it all, he always only eats the pretzels and raisens – effectively leaving me with my favorite part – when we’re sharing the bag.

While this is a tiny instance that we’ve done and overlooked a thousand times before, tonight it made me realize how much things have, in fact, not changed.

My grandmother still has a subscription to Marie Claire magazine that she never (ever) reads but sits on her coffee table next to the TV guide and her book of prayers. I doubt she even knows its a fashion magazine … or that I’ve been swiping them from her for 10 years. My great Aunt Nancy still makes the best chocolate pie I’ve ever tasted and while she complains about baking, always has one ready when we come to visit. My aunt Sandy still slips my little brother and I $20 each, no matter our age, and makes us promise not to tell our other brother and sister (though I’m pretty sure she does the exact same thing to them). My dad still calls passing from the Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone the “time warp,” and he will shake his body and make futuristic noises every time he passes through it on Western Kentucky Parkway … even if he is alone in the car.

So as my little brother and I drove across the Lake Barkley dam across the Cumberland River, singing Beatles songs and eating our favorite parts of the trail mix, I realized that some things change. It’s inevitable that they will.

But other things … they simply don’t. They stay exactly the same as they’ve always been.

And while I don’t mind change too much, I really like it that my mom still makes the most delicious banana bread in the history of banana breads because there’s always rotten bananas in the house.

I like it that my brother eats the parts I don’t like, that my dad still time warps. I like that some things never, ever change.

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