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Are There Green Oranges on Your Family Tree? featured img
Category: Family Capital

Are There Green Oranges on Your Family Tree?

July 29, 2020

This week we ordered oranges to support our local scouts. We had ordered them a few months ago and they were wonderful. We were surprised this time that most of the oranges were more green than orange. When I shop for oranges, I tend to choose the ones with the deepest orange skin. Out of curiosity, I cut one open that had skin as green as a lime. Inside, the fruit was orange and juicy. Surprise! We did a little research and discovered new facts about green oranges.

The green is due to chlorophyll produced on the peel of orange citrus to protect itself from sunburn. The green color has no impact on flavor—in fact, some growers believe that citrus with regreening can have more sugar than deep-orange fruit. Regreening can also be caused by the position of individual fruits on the tree—fruit tucked in among the leaves tends to have more green, as it’s trying to maximize its reach for the sun’s rays. Chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis, which allows fruit to absorb energy from sunlight.

This discovery led me to think of some of my ancestors who, at first glance, were like green oranges. The dates and facts about them amounted to no more than an outside glimpse of who they were and no true understanding of what they were like inside. Let me tell you about two of them.

First, my own dad. Of course, I knew more than just his vital statistics. I knew he loved me, was a great cook, and struggled mightily with some difficult issues. These issues eventually led to my parents’ divorce when I was in 8th grade. After that, I saw him infrequently until his tragic death when I was pregnant with my first child. As I searched old records and stories about him and his family, I came to realize that he tried to adopt an entirely new way of life when he married my mom. He was orphaned at age 2; the same difficulties that plagued him had beset a heartbreaking number of others in his family. My heart changed as I began to see the sweetness of his hopes and dreams, even when they weren’t realized. I can now honor him for those desires of his heart and the things he did accomplish. I’m so grateful to have peeled away my assumptions and prejudice to see the color of his heart.

Second, my great grandmother, Mary Cairns Lyon, whom I never met. There was a beautiful picture of her displayed in our home and she looked like an angel. My parents both loved her. I remember my dad saying he always looked at the picture of her as he left the house and felt she was sending him off with her love and good wishes for the day. My mother adored her and cherished Mary’s many acts of love and life-changing concern for her that provided comfort and assurance. Mom loved spending time at her home and noted that her Grandma Lyon often included some who were in desperate need to share a meal and conversation at her table. So, I first saw her as the perfect, traditional deep-orange woman.

I was shocked to discover that Mary’s mother left her and her brother in the care of her parents in Scotland when she fled an abusive marriage, eventually coming to America. Mary was 5 years old and did not see her mother again until she was 9. She had to hide in a coil of rope on the ship before it departed to avoid being detained by her angry father. So at age 9 she was reunited with her mother, whom she hardly remembered, in a new country and culture. They lived in extremely poor circumstances and worked hard to survive. Mary didn’t attend much school because her hands were needed to contribute to their support.  Still, her mother taught her to be kind and honest. Eventually she married a fine man and lived a life filled with service and family joy. Who would have guessed such sweet fruit would grow inside this decidedly green-skinned orange? I also realize that this was likely the seed of the fruit that grew in my mother’s heart that led to many down-on-their-luck guests at our dinner table over the years.

These two green oranges also taught me some things about myself. I can do hard things. The things I desire to do matter, even when I fall short of accomplishing them. I must be ever watchful for green oranges among the people of my family and neighborhood. Are there any green oranges filled with rich goodness on your family tree you might discover?