Sunday, July 22, 2012
In my day, summers were spent working hard, sweating beneath the sun, trying to make enough money for dinner. We worked our tails off back then, but it wasn’t always enough. Not enough food for our bellies, not enough medicine to keep us well.
I didn’t want that for my kids, or my grandkids. I didn’t want them to know how it felt to go hungry, or to have to heat up water in the sun all day long just for a warm bath, or wake up knowing it was just another day of hard work ahead. No siree, my little ones were going to know magic and fun and all the things we didn’t get as kids.
Life weren’t all bad, I suppose. We had our moments of mischief. Orange fights in the orchard, feeding the pig Momma’s organic soap to get them pink bubble farts, howling at Old Man Willard’s cat to get them hairs on her back standing tall as can be. There was lots of laughter in the Standridge household, until Momma got sick and passed on, and even less when my baby brother died of pneumonia in my arms. Winters got colder after that, nights longer, work harder. And I made a decision -- this would not be the way things were when I was a father.
I stayed true to my word, too, making a career for myself, putting food on the table, helping with homework each night. And when my grandkids came along, well, that’s when life got even sweeter.
It’d been a long time since I had little ones running around. First my brothers and sisters, then my little girl, Curly. Used to be we’d run around the orange groves, smelling the fruit, climbing trees, pretending to be in whole other worlds of adventure. The oldest two, they didn’t care much for stories, but Kariss and Colly, they were meant for magic. Gumdrop trees blossoming in the dawn, candy scratched out of armpits, alien orbs buried in the sand dunes, they believed in the impossible no matter what anyone told them.
I still remember the day Colly and me dreamed up the Sour Orange Derby. Back then, I never would have imagined that game, which was just some simple backyard fun smacking oranges over the fence with a baseball bat, would end up being the thing that saved us when Colly left this world.
I think about that day often, the way my youngest grandson smiled when the first orange sailed over the fence. I hear his laugh when his brothers struck out ten times in a row. Sometimes I can even see his face lighting up as his siblings carried him around the yard cheering his name after the last Sour Orange Derby he’d ever play.
Mostly, I like to think about us all together, and what it means to be a Standridge. We came from nothing, just two Civil War soldiers on opposite sides of the battlefield who put aside their differences for one night to share a bit of tobacco, later building the orange grove legacy that would start a brand-new tradition when the groves died off for good. Being a Standridge means celebrating where we came from, and the Sour Orange Derby does just that. It makes us remember who we are, and ties us all together whether we’re of this world or the next.
Even now, as I’m sitting here watching my grown grandkids and their momma bat their hearts out, I feel our family, all of them. They love this game, and what we created from the magic of our own imaginations. We celebrate together, even though this old man’s days on the field are over. So instead I watch from the bleachers, taking in the sight of everything my family built together.
And I know Colly’s sitting right next to me.
One lone tree is all that remains of the cherished Standridge family orange groves, a legacy that goes back as far as the Civil War. But for young Colly Standridge, that solitary tree is at the center of a magical world.
Inspired by real people, The Sour Orange Derby follows the lives of Colly, who dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, and K.B. Standridge, an imaginative old man who spends his days creating stories for his grandchildren to enjoy while searching for a new family legacy -- and finds it in his last beloved orange tree.
A story about love and healing steeped in southern traditions, The Sour Orange Derby is a tale of one family joining together to celebrate life and history, and how their last remaining orange tree holds them all together when the young boy’s fight with cancer threatens to tear them apart.
Kindle / Paperback
Kristina Circelli, accomplished author of The Helping Hands and The Whisper Legacy series, is proud to take readers on a literary journey into her childhood, offering a glimpse of the magical worlds and imaginative stories created by her beloved grandfather.
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