Once, when my grandfather was a little boy, he walked with his grandfather, the exquisitely named Shlomo Zalman, from one shtetl to the next. On the way there, Shlomo Zalman gave my grandfather half a banana and then carefully wrapped up the other half. On the way back, he gave him the other half.
Eighty years later, sitting in a condo in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, my grandfather still remembered this story. He didn’t remember where they were going, or why, but he remembered the sweetness of the fruit and his grandfather’s gift and so he told me the story. I do not know what color hair Shlomo Zalman had. I do not know what he thought about any political issues of the day, or even what his wife’s name was, but I know that he was the kind of man who, living in an Eastern European shtetl, would give his favorite grandchild an entire, rare banana.
I think about Shlomo Zalman as I mindlessly toss banana slices and blueberries into my oatmeal. I offer my daughter half a banana and she refuses, she doesn’t like bananas. I would offer her blueberries, but I know that she is bothered by the “inconsistency of berries.” She told me this several months ago, maybe even a year ago, and I have kept the phrase ever since. “The inconsistency of berries.” It rolls around in my head like the name Shlomo Zalman. My daughter does not like how sometimes you buy berries and they are great, and sometimes you buy them and they are not. She does not like how you can reach into a box of berries and you might pull out a sweet one, but also, you might pull out a sour one – in the same box.
Once, I showed her that you can generally judge a berry. The darker and plumper they are, the sweeter they are. But still, she avoids them. She leaves for college in two weeks. I find myself telling her odd little “life tips” in the hopes that when she needs to know how to introduce two strangers, or to revive stale bread, or get a wine stain out, she will remember them. I am pouring as much information into her as I can.
But the inconsistency of berries is real. You never know what you will pull out of a box or what you will need. In the end, all you can hope for, is that one small act will reverberate across generations and geographies, that something will bear fruit.