Quirks, Raincoats, and the Smell of Fresh Papaya


I have a daughter who is bright, nerdy like her mother, and a budding photographer. On her way to school this morning, we had a chat about this unexpected gift that is developing in her. I, myself, had for a long time cherished the hope of somehow being a photographer; but it was somewhere further down the list of dream job priorities than “famous-singing-princess-astronaut”, so I have let that dream fall by the wayside. Beside the fact that, unlike my lovely daughter, I have no innate talent in this direction, photography is something I have learned to appreciate as a spectator, as I have many other things I have held up for inspection along the way to becoming an adult.

We all have our talents and quirks and knacks for things. All three of my sisters as well as my mother have an amazing talent for home decorating. They know how to put things together. They have the ability to tie pretty bows on things. I do not have either of these abilities, but I have many others. 🙂 I know many people who like to do the same things, but the levels of ability vary with the person. We are all unique. In fact, our individual talent sets, abilities, and tendencies are so distinctive that it could almost be compared to each of us having our own personal culture or language.

For example, I have this certain raincoat that I bought out of necessity when I was expecting my last child. It is long, belted, and bright turquoise. It’s also about 4 sizes too big for no-longer-pregnant me. Nevertheless, I LOVE this coat! For one thing, the size of it means I can wear bulky clothes underneath it without getting that “bunched up” feeling. I once wore it for Halloween with my huge rainbow umbrella, caked-on “Endora” eyeshadow,  a messy bun, and a plush cat toy sticking out of the pocket. Nothing says “crazy cat lady” like a get-up of that caliber, am I right? Still, to this day, I love to wear this enormous raincoat. It makes me happy sometimes, to simply go against the grain of what most people think of as desirable or normal. Who’s life is this anyway? Again, we have another example of unabashed uniqueness.

Let us consider a freshly-opened papaya for a moment. I have always thought of papaya the way I do other tropical (and to me exotic) fruits, like guava, cocoanut, pineapple, mango and dragon fruit. They are out of the ordinary treats from far-away lands. They are to be loved ad savored above such paltry and common-place things as apples and oranges, puh-leese! (Some of my childish ways have hung on a bit into adulthood, I’m afraid. I DO love apples and oranges, to be clear.) But one day I had the opportunity to visit one of our local markets that boasts a rather large ethnic section. So, there was the papaya, looking strangely other-worldly, foreign, and therefore desirable. 

“What a treat!” I thought to myself. “I will surprise my kids with this exotic delight!”

OK, so my exact wording may have been slightly different. My memory is somewhat fuzzy on that account. So I brought it home and told them of my wonderful idea. I told the about the exotic and rare treat I had in store for them. Their eyes lit up. After all, if Mom thinks it’s a wonderful thing, it must be, right?

I made a big production out of getting a cutting board and a big shiny knife. And as I expertly cut the football-sized fruit down the center, a dreadful smell filled the room. They were surprised alright. Maybe it was just the seeds, I thought. The kids wrinkled their noses. I tried not to wrinkle mine, and laughed off a nagging voice at the back of my head telling me that things you put in your mouth should NOT smell like week-old garbage. Nevertheless, I pressed on with the task of cutting large wedges of papaya for myself and my children. OK, I lied a little bit just there. After that smell, I was quite prepared to shamelessly use my children as guinea pigs and make them go first.

As anyone who has ever had fresh papaya will know, the smell did not diminish with the removal of the seeds. Now with the smell of fresh papaya filling the house, the kids took turns trying the papaya, and finally, so did I. Hastily apologizing to my children for making them eat something that tasted like rotting meat, we pitched the entire thing into the garbage, had a good laugh, and proceeded to eat, instead, the several ripe mangoes I had also purchased that day.

Curious to know more, I looked up “papaya stink”, or something to that effect, on the internet. As it turns out, the smell is completely normal for ripe papaya, as was the reaction of myself and my children. This is just more proof to what I’ve been saying all along; we are all unique, which is a really generous way to describe the first person who ever smelled a papaya and decided to go ahead and eat it anyway.

However the stories of our lives go, we are individual as snowflakes. We were each created to fill a special place. Though it may seem random and chaotic the way we are tossed out like jacks in the world, it is rather the serendipity of the Creator, who loves us as the distinctive, colorful, oddities that we are. He sees us as we really are, and His delight in us should be the end of the matter.

 Sixty queens there may be,
    and eighty concubines,
    and virgins beyond number;
 but my dove, my perfect one, is unique,
    the only daughter of her mother,
    the favorite of the one who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
    the queens and concubines praised her. Song of Songs 6: 8-9

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