It was a rainy November evening, the time of year when it's dark at an absurdly early hour. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading a book on French history. I was up to the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, when my mother announced that we were going grocery shopping. At this time, and quite unlike my adult life, I loved the experience of getting in the car and going someplace.
Of course I wanted candy; something my parents did not understand as I still had a good-sized stash of Halloween candy left over. The thing is, of course, I did not have any of "that" kind ("that" most likely being whatever I devoured first after Halloween).
My mother did relent--of course--and so by my reckoning, the trip was a success (the candy bar most likely being consumed on the way home). Once back home, I returned to my book and the delightful tale of religious persecution.
A short while later, my mother called my brother and me into the kitchen to try something she had bought. Something she called a Chinese apple.
The thing did look vaguely like an apple--although a far more violent red than any apple I'd ever seen before. But when she cut it open, I saw it was not an apple at all but this weird pod filled with pulpy seeds. Following her lead, I popped one of these purple-red globs into my mouth. Not, bad, I thought, and immediately had another, and another, and several dozen others.
"They're only here in the fall," my mother explained. At that time, I did not understand the intricacies of the fruit industry, simply figuring there must be some sort of law banning Chinese apples other times of year (hey, there are stranger real laws on the books). This began a tradition for the next 3 or 4 years of having a Chinese apple or two every autumn.
I did not realize it at the time, but I had heard of this seedy fruit before, only by their proper name--pomegranates. About 7 months earlier, I was (as it seems a habit with me) sitting at the kitchen table reading. This time it was a book about Greek mythology. I read the story of Persephone and how her eating pomegranate seeds is the reason we have winter.
Some time the next year I read the story again, becoming interested in this fruity source of blizzards and below-zero temperatures. So I pulled out volume P of my trusty World Book Encyclopedia. I quickly flipped through the pages to the article I wanted. There was a small black and white photograph, which looked reminiscent of my family's newly-established fall tradition.
"Pomegranate," the article said--to the best of my recollection. "Sometimes known as Chinese apple". I was surprised by the revelation, and more that a little pleased that I had been eating something out of Greek mythology.
My family became oddly bilingual at that point as I insisted on calling them pomegranates while my mother clung to Chinese apples. I don't recall what name my brother preferred using, and my father rarely referred to them at all--feeling they were too much work for too little in return.
So while the golden leaves, shorter days, and chilly weather might make some remember the scent of pumpkin pies baking in the oven or the sweet excesses of a successful Halloween, for me. it's those small, pulpy seeds and that rainy night so many years ago.