Every fall, Elizabeth, a childhood friend, would bring pomegranates in her school lunches. They took her most of the hour to consume, as she picked away at them ever so carefully, using a paper towel as a shield. Those who've experienced pomegranates as anything other than table decorations know why some system of shielding is mandatory. Pomegranates are messy.
Despite this, or probably because of this, I have joined the city of Granada, Spain, in adopting them as an emblem.
I have had issues with messiness my entire life. But even though I have tried to be tidier, messiness has always won out.
I grew up with four brothers and with all the stray pets that I could assist the animal shelters in housing. So there was no other option but for messiness to become my mantra.
When I became an adult, my messy habits became entrenched as I ran crazy with art projects and continued my tradition of rescuing animals.
I tried to be less messy - making New Year's, midyear's, and solstice resolutions - but the bric-a-brac of our lives would have none of it.
Still, several years ago, I enjoyed a small victory in my war against messiness. One fall day, I noticed the pomegranates stacked high in the produce bin at my local supermarket. I decided to accept the challenge of working with, not against, the fruit's messiness.
I had come across a surefire technique for opening pomegranates without causing scarlet showers. Excited by the fruit's promise of sweet-tart flavor, I took some home that day.
I filled a bowl with water and submerged each pomegranate. Then I cut each one in half with my sharpest knife.
As I pulled away the fruit's rind and white membranes, the seeds sank to the bottom of the bowl. Everything left for the compost bin floated to the top.
Voila! The seeds were ready to go into our heavy-duty juicer.
A potentially frustrating, clothes-staining experience had been transformed into a pleasant fall ritual.
Nothing clean stays that way forever, though.
Lately, I have come to know a dimension of messiness beyond the scope of my wildest imagination: the messes created by little people.
In the interest of full disclosure, however, there is really nothing "little" about my "little guy," least of which are his messes.
So what was I thinking when I put Clarke together with pomegranates?
Nevertheless, that's what I did. As I felt a hint of coolness in the night air, I couldn't resist tasting the first signs of fall in a container of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice at our local market.
Not one to deny my son a good thing, I poured a small amount into the cap of the plastic bottle and held it for him to sip.
Clarke drank it all, and then smiled. He managed to keep himself clean except for the crimson corners of his mouth.
I poured him another capful, and he squealed with joy. He seemed to enjoy the juice as much as I did - but he couldn't manage to control his excitement. As I lifted the cap to his mouth again, his eager little hands collided with it and sent a spray of pomegranate juice onto both of us.
Completely defeated in my attempts at cleanliness, I had to smile at the poetic justice of a fruit that would, after lending its name to an explosive device - the grenade - detonate on a mother and son in the market.
As a consequence, and in the spirit of the saying "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I wear the pomegranate stain proudly on my shirt. It affirms for all to see that life is indelibly messy, especially with a 9-month-old.