The raisin years

I’ve been thinking about grapes with their tight smooth skin and plump juicy beauty. 

  • Jan. 14, 2011 5:00 p.m.

I’ve been thinking about grapes with their tight smooth skin and plump juicy beauty. 

Artists fill classrooms just to gaze upon their loveliness. 

These budding paparazzi of the fruit world labour with brush and palette to capture the grape on canvas as it drips seductively over the edge of a cut crystal bowl. Oh, it cannot be denied; in the prime of its life a grape is a beautiful thing.

But a raisin is sweeter. And despite its wrinkled skin in its aged form it has a much higher value, both nutritional and monetary.

Now that I’m heading into my own raisin years, I take an odd comfort in that. 

Still, you never see raisins on an art canvas. Even those little red raisin boxes feature the beautiful Sun Maid girl in her fetching red bonnet holding an enormous tray of grapes rather than raisins. 

The Sun Maid girl was a frequent visitor to my Popeye lunch kit during my elementary school years. I spent a few minutes every lunch hour studying her face and wondering about her life as I ate my box of raisins. It wasn’t her beauty that captured my attention so much as the enormous sun rising behind her and that massive tray of freshly picked green grapes. 

Growing up in rural Canada mine was not a green-grape world. I went to school in snow pants and a parka topped off with a toque that made me look like I was about to hold up the 7-Eleven. 

For almost five months of the year when I headed out to catch the school bus the only sound was my boots crunching over the snow and the only illumination was the one bobbing at the end of my flashlight. 

On clear mornings the stars shone overhead and sometimes a coyote yammered or a cow mooed, and if I was really lucky the northern lights were in full swing. But mostly everything was cold, dark and silent. 

On days when the air was so frigid it hurt to breath and my eyes would start to freeze shut there was no sweeter sight than the lights of that school bus rising over the hill. 

So at lunch time before heading out to build snow forts with my friends, I would look at the Sun Maid girl in her red sun bonnet, bare sleeves and freshly plucked grapes smiling away in front of that huge hot sun and wonder at how far apart our two worlds were.

Imagine living in a place where it never snowed and you had never experienced losing a mitten! 

I lived in a land of fresh potatoes and peas. I didn’t know anything about growing grapes.

It wasn’t until Grade 3 that I even thought to question why the Sun Maid girl was holding a tray of grapes instead of raisins. 

When someone told me the raisins used to be grapes I thought they were joking. It was like coming across a photograph of a beautiful young girl and being told it was your great grandmother when she was 16. 

The mind has a hard time connecting the dots between the two. But it shouldn’t be a negative thing. 

While I was astonished to learn that nature’s wrinkled little candy used to be a plump, juicy grape that didn’t make the raisin taste any less sweet. 

Now that I’m finished raisin’ my children and am heading into my own raisin years, I think it’s time to start raisin’ a little … well, at least a few eyebrows. I’m not about to let some wrinkles and grey hair get me down. There’s still a whole lot of living to do.

If you always wanted to be who you really are instead of pretending to be someone you’re not there are no better years than your raisin ones to drop the guard and let loose.  Or maybe you’ve been too scared of failure to realize your full potential.

Well now is the time to start raisin’ that bar and leave fear choking in your dust. You can do it. 

You’ve got age and experience on your side, nothing to lose and everything to gain. What’s the worst that can happen? 

You get stomped on? Stomp all over a grape and what do you get? A glass of fine wine. 

As for me and the Sun Maid girl, our worlds are getting a bit closer. 

We now have several kinds of grapes that are hardy to Canada — even my Zone 2b part of Canada!  I planted three of them last summer and am eagerly looking forward to spring and hopefully raisin’ a basket of grapes of my own. 

I’ll be a raisin raisin’ some raisins.  It just doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country.  You can read more of her columns by visiting www.shan nonmckinnon.com.