Canned Peaches

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“You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, ‘Let’s get some parfait,’ they say, ‘Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.’? Parfaits are delicious!” In my best Donkey voice I whipped up a special treat. “Here you go Cade…parfait”

Digging his spoon into the mountain of goodness, Cade replied. “No! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.”

Amazed that Cade knew the next line, I smiled.  Most of us remember the classic Donkey lines. But what about Shrek and the rest of the Dreamworks movie’s characters?

“Parfait’s may be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” Chuckling to myself, I got back to work. With my hands in the sink and my head in the clouds, I scrubbed away. Time to catch up on the dishes. Watching through the opening I observed him. Cade was wearing his favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt. His chocolate eyes reflected the afternoon sun filtering through the picture window.

“Mmmm…” Cade scooped through the top layer. But then again, who doesn’t love whipped cream? Adoringly, I watched my son smile; a gift that I cherish so much. Scribbling on a sheet of construction paper, he licked the corner of his mouth.

“Wow Cade! Is that the Incredible Hulk?”

“Yeah…” He admired his artwork as the hero progressed. Laying his crayon down, it was on to the next layer. As his spoon dug deeper, it was the best of both worlds. Bits of cake and ice cream danced along Cade’s palate. Several crayon strokes later and the masterpiece came to life.

“Great job Cade.” I applauded. “That’s one bad ass Hulk drawing.”

“Yes.” So proudly he agreed. “I know.” Rewarding himself, he dove to the depths of the dessert glass. Of course, I never expected what would happen next. He had never been fond of canned peaches, my buddy. And quickly his taste buds soured. “Yuk!” He exclaimed as he spit across the table.

“Yuk!” Also replied the Hulk pounding the preserved fruit into submission. “Hulk smash!” He roared.

In all honesty, I had forgotten about Cade’s disdain toward canned peaches. You see, Cade doesn’t exemplify hate. It’s part of the beauty of his innocence. Although very much a young adult who’s turning twenty next month, autism has kept Cade very much a child. And quite simply, children don’t know hate. Children learn hate. They learn it by the actions of those they admire. They learn it from us. This past weekend reminded me of just that.

Pookie’s son Tyler graduated high school. Pookie was my best friend and brother growing up. The two of us met in math class. I excelled in algebra and let’s just say Pookie didn’t.

“Hey,” there was a gentle poke on my back. “What’s the answer to number 3?”

Aside from his dripping Jheri curl, the most noticeable thing about Pookie was his smile. It stretched from one dimple to the next. He was several inches taller than me and claimed to be from the hood. However, there was nothing hood-like about him. Pookie’s style was a post-Thriller era Michael Jackson. To keep his skin from getting too ashy he kept a bottle of lotion in his back pack at all time.

Without saying a word I slid my paper into Pookie’s view. From the sound of his grinding eraser, Pookie needed help with more than just number 3.

“Thanks for helping me out,” leaving the classroom he introduced himself. “I’m Marcel. People call me Dwayne but my friends call me Pookie.”

“Nice to meet you, Pookie. I’m Kelly. Some people call me Jude. But mostly people just call me Kelly.”

“How do you get Jude from Kelly?”

“Jude is my middle name, as in St. Jude. We’re Catholic and my mom just has a thing for St. Jude I guess. How do you get Pookie from Marcel or Dwayne?”

“My mom used to call me Pookie Bear. One day my friends heard her and I’ve been Pookie ever since.”

Although he lost his battle to cancer four years ago, Pookie is still very much alive through the hearts of his amazing children. Regrettably, I no longer get to see Tyler nor Pookie’s daughter, Summer very often.  There are many miles between us now. However, when we do get together, we just pick up where we left off.

Sitting at the patio table, we indulged in crawfish and comradery. Proud of the young man Tyler had become, I glanced toward him. In mutual respect, together we nodded our heads. The DJ spun, the crowd mingled and the little ones ravaged the bounce house. The shaded back yard provided for an enjoyable day in the otherwise hot Atlanta sun.

Before long, a couple uninvited guests arrived. Two young caucasian boys were playing in the woods behind the house. Their adolescent adventures led them to the celebration that was taking place. Curiously, they climbed across the fence. “Brave move,” I thought as they intermixed among the crowd. Within moments Tyler’s step father approached the two inquisitive youths. Their eyes rolled upward acknowledging the man’s towering presence. Tyler’s step father was from the south and he wasn’t about to have uninvited guests wandering about his home. Not without a plate of food and a large chunk of cake that is. The two adventurers spent the remainder of the afternoon meeting new people, laughing and having a bayou style good time. As they headed back across the fence, Tyler’s step father stopped them once more. You see Tyler’s step father was from the south and he wasn’t about to have uninvited guests leave his home empty handed. They parted ways with new friends, new stories and a bag of hot boiled crawfish.

So here’s to the beauty of a child’s innocence. My son has never known a difference between him and Tyler. To Cade, skin pigmentation is of no significance. To Cade, we’re all the same. My son has no preconceived judgment of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexuality nor disability. To Cade, it’s all insignificant. To Cade, we’re all the same. And although Cade and Tyler are close in age, Uncle Pookie and I are much older. To Cade, age is of no significance. To Cade, we’re all the same. We are all just nineteen years old in the eyes of my son.

What would you do differently if you had the chance to be nineteen again? Everyday my son makes me strive to be a better person. His open heart acceptance is inspiring. A little kindness really does go a long way. After all, we are worthy of so much more than canned peaches.

Kelly Jude Melerine

  • Shrek, Directed by: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, Produced by: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Screenplay by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger S. H. Schulman, Distributed by: DreamWorks Pictures, 2001.