The smell and taste of a fresh nectarine says so much to me. It starts with my family all piling into a car for a long drive south. I always knew once we hit the border because the cramped space shared between my parents, brother, sister and I grew tense as we tried to hide whatever harmless fruit or food they might want to confiscate as we entered the Golden State.
A few rest areas and views of distant wind turbines on rolling hills were the only memorable distractions before our car turned from the shared ribbon of asphalt and concrete of I-5 onto the long, straight, two lane roads of the central valley. Those roads seemed to never end save for momentary slowdowns when they passed through this or that dusty farm town. Back then, Fresno seemed like one and the same. The long, straight, two land roads I looked forward to were the ones that lead out the Kingsburg.
Past the oasis with the trees that stretch to form a tunnel over the road. Past the little bridge over the even littler river lush with green along its banks. Out there the farm of the aunt I miss so fondly and of cousins so welcoming stood and holds memories of so many great summers. There I learned how to whistle louder than anyone I know (without using my fingers) from that aunt who called cattle (and probably my cousins) that way. I tasted milk that came from a cow rather than a cardboard box on the shelf in a grocery story. And there an early love for all things gadgets came from the Atari 2600 I played there with my brother and sister.
Reunions themselves were a mash of people and faces I could barely remember and who were likely distant in relation enough most people wouldn't consider them family. Out in the hot, summer farm land of Kingsburg everyone seemed like family. As the June sun beat down on the park where we all met I collected and played with bottle caps with my cousin Krissy, listened in on stories all the older aunts, uncles, and counsins would sit around and tell as they BBQ'd up some tri-tip with that special something rubbed on it that made it heaven. Little guys like me were welcomed into volleyball games the older cousins played and sweet, fresh, nectarines were like heaven, dripping all over my hand.
We might have complained then about the heat or the tight quarters for the long drive between Vancouver and Fresno but those summers, the every-other-summer of nectaries and family reunions, were the best.