By Marilyn Pellini
The word “fresh” comes to mind whenever I think of the fruits and vegetables of summer. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or even the supermarket at that time of year, you are bound to get beautiful color and crisp crunch with every bite. Have you ever gone to your own garden in the process of making BLTs and picked a perfectly ripe tomato to slip between the lettuce and bacon, one still hot from the summer sun? Yum! What a treat. A taste all its own.
When tending a garden, one spends a great deal of time in the out-of-doors, in the fresh air and probably with a hose in hand, making sure that the plants get the perfect amount of clear, clean water as often in summer rain is in short supply. In this special season, garden flowers will be flourishing, and a fresh bouquet can be quickly gathered to make the indoors as inviting as the outdoors. Most supermarkets do carry already made-up bouquets of flowers, but the varieties we plant in our yards are often both the usual and unusual. We put in our favorites and try for varieties the deer don’t think of as “deer lollipops.” The term “fresh as a daisy” comes to mind while talking of summer flowers. This term of course has a double meaning. Surely daisies do always look fresh with their lovely, bright, yellow color dancing atop slender, pert stems, but people too can imitate that crisp, perfect, vibrant look and also be as fresh as any daisy.
My mom used to hang her wash out on a clothesline long after she had gotten a washer and dryer. She did not think stripping the beds each week insured fresh linen unless it had been plucked from the line after flapping in the breeze for hours. There was something so special about that smell. Now once in a while, I can recapture that essence when I leave my bathing suit and towel over my chair at the pool overnight to dry.
There is actually a whole season of “fresh” that occurs whenever we experience springtime. The breezes are strong as the March winds usher in the first glimpses of newness to our environment. Budding trees, the springing of flowers, the greening of the grass, all so fresh and new. Baby birds and newborn animals bring a change from the previous dull, drab winter season. All seems to come alive once again. Time to spruce up outside our homes. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint for the now tired, worn-looking color. Some people love a project they can tackle themselves and paint one side each year, while others prefer to have it freshened every few years, and sometimes even go with a completely new color scheme.
Both the start of a new year or the coming of spring often bring a fresh start in many matters. For example, we may want to change our eating habits, which can precipitate our desire to lose weight. Often we have the mindset of adding more fruits, vegetables, and water to our diets and eliminating those empty carbs, but now all we have to do is put this into action and not relegate it to mañana as we usually do.
We all have some degree of personal, work, or home problems that need to be addressed, but we put off solving them time and time again. We have all promised to get to those neglected household chores or lapsed relationships. How often have we promised ourselves we should ask for a raise, or at the very least a transfer to the department we are longing to work in? It is apparent, however, that some of us need to change jobs altogether and make a fresh start. Haven’t we all met up with the nurse who doesn’t like sick people, the hairdresser who gives all her clients the same hairstyle, or the waitress in an empty restaurant who is too busy setting up tables to pick up our order sitting in plain view and getting cold? A whole new arena is what many of these people need. A lesser salary may have to be the norm for a while, but when you are happy at your work, it’s more likely you will quickly get promotions. You are more likely to come up with some novel, fresh ideas for your company, too. With a fresh eye, you are likely to spot areas that need improvement.
The summer before I started college, I was lucky enough to land a job working for an insurance company. All calls came directly to our office, as cellphones were just beginning to be phased in. With adjusters in and out all day on cases, it was hard to keep track of them, and the office staff was constantly shouting back and forth to try to locate the person who was being called. I noticed an empty blackboard along the side wall and asked my boss what it was used for. She explained that if there was a team meeting or a speaker was brought in, they might need it. I suggested that every time an adjuster left the office, he might sign out and note his expected time of return. After a couple of weeks I refined my idea by saying each of the adjuster’s names should be permanently affixed to the top of the blackboard in alphabetical order. It was immediately put into effect and did work very well. I think because I was just a kid with a temporary job, no one felt threatened by my suggestions and fresh ideas.
Being a former teacher, there is one aspect of the word “fresh” that I am all too familiar with, and that is fresh talk and fresh behavior. Some students are just plain uncooperative and not at all interested in getting an education. They are constantly speaking out and hoping to stir up others in the class. You can talk privately with that student, hoping to turn them around, but often the rapport you build up is short-lived. A call to a parent is sometimes the magic potent, other times it falls on deaf ears, as often they too are at a loss as to how to control their child. The school principal can be a great asset as students know he holds in his hands the decision of whether to expel them or not.
My last year of teaching dealt me this exact student. Not really a bad kind of kid, just a plain itch. I met with him privately during one of his study hall periods. After discussing just how disruptive his behavior was, I asked if he thought there was any reason for his needing so much attention. His answer stunned me. “It’s simple,” he said, “I have this brilliant older brother who is going to Harvard next year, and a really cute little sister who is doted on by the whole family, and then there is me.” I couldn’t help but laugh at his insightfulness, as he had me astounded. I suggested he tell his parents what we had just discussed, as I was sure they would be more than happy to heap more attention and praise on him in return for good behavior at school. It totally worked. He and I got along lots better, and he proved to be a much better student than anyone had suspected. He eliminated the negative aspect of the word “fresh”, and became the real “breath of fresh air” our classroom really needed.
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.