This morning, at 7am, I ate an orange in my shower.
It’s a thing. My almost 21 year-old daughter read about it and it’s apparently been a thing for a few years now. Eating an orange in the shower, they say, is a direct line to joy. And right now, I need a little joy.
The orange, plucked from a tree in our Southern California backyard, was tart, sweet and sticky. As the water washed over me, I struggled for a bit to decide what to do with the peel. Was eating peel part of the joy prescription? I didn’t eat the peel. I put it on the side of the tub.
With peel removed, I inhaled deeply. The smell was wonderful. The taste was pleasant, and the pulpy juice easily washed down the drain.
As I swallowed the last segments feeling the juice drip down my throat, I smiled. The joy I felt was real but it wasn’t really about the orange or the shower. It was about the connection I felt in that moment to my daughter.
Due to the Covid-19 threat, she is home from her junior year of college and back in her childhood bedroom. She hasn’t lived here in almost 3 years but is now pasting up old calendars on her lemon yellow walls, blasting teeny-bopper music and oozing about the boy band crush she had when she was 14. She spends hours in the mirror applying and reapplying sparkly eye makeup to go – well, not out. She eschews family time, finds a million excuses to avoid helping with chores and has reached into her past to pull out her very best tween eye roll for the dinner table. My adult daughter has regressed!
Like everyone else, her whole world has been turned upside down. But in her case, it brought out the adolescent. At first, I bristled against it. Screw that! I’ve already survived her teenage years – and have all the gray hair to prove it. I have no desire to go down that rabbit hole again. I clashed with her, barked at her. I tried to compel her to care by using my finely honed Jewish guilt trip. The responses I got were textbook teen, “Get out of my room!” “I hate living here,” “I need my privacy.” As our dynamic fell into it’s old deeply worn grooves, I took it all personally. Wounded and angry, I pouted and felt sure her behavior was due to my failure in parenting. Don’t I have enough to deal with right now? Yes, I made it all about me.
One day, as I was walking the dog – a task she refused – and grumbling to myself, I had an epiphany. This DOES suck for her. And while she has a home, we have food, she has the ability continue school with virtual classes, loss is loss is loss. What she has been playing out has more to do with grief than a permanent state of regression.
Her losses don’t fit into a category – illness, death, graduation not happening, job lost, wedding cancelled. Nor do they win in any misery Olympics. There is so much greater suffering in the world. But she has lost something significant. She has lost her freedom. She has lost the ease of knowing that she was on some kind of path. Senior year comes after junior year and then you graduate. Unknowns seem to be more palpable right now. Most people don’t come out of college with a clear path, but the illusion was always there. Now, upon hearing that Covid-19 has most likely altered much of her future, she has fallen to the comfort of her past.
On the day that she came bounding into the room to wax rhapsodic about oranges in the shower, she had found a smile again. She was dressed in a tank top and cords, had purple eye shadow and glitter and was ready to hit the town, or maybe the living room. Something about the optimism of an orange in the shower felt hopeful to her. When she invited us to share the experience (okay on our own) and provided oranges for the ritual, I felt she was inviting us back into her life.
While an orange in the shower didn’t change my life nor did it bring me unbridled joy, it did bring me closer to my daughter. An orange in the shower was something in our control at a time when we don’t have much control about tomorrow. In doing so, I could smell the fragrance, taste the sweetness and wash the sticky juice away all at the same time. AND I got some vitamin C too. I call that a win!
PUBLISHER’s NOTE: I am fortunate to have been friends with Gabrielle since we were tweens rolling our eyes at our own mothers! Learn more about her at GabrielleKaufman.com.