My mom's parents immigrated from Greece in the early 1900's. My grandfather, George, came first and worked his way across the country laying tracks for the railraod until he had saved enough money to bring his bride, Lena, to the US. They settled in northern Ohio. Although I'm not quite sure why, story has it that he had saved enough to bring Lena across the Atlantic by the time he worked his way from Oregon to Ohio. They settled in a neighborhood of mostly Hungarian and Greek immigrants, where George created a bakery with his three brothers. Sadly, my grandfather passed when I was only two, but I remember him from pictures and stories my mother has told me. He was a very kind and gentle man who also had a hand for gardening.
Behind their white and brown clapboard house was a huge garden taking up nearly the entire yard. There was also a big grape arbor that ran the length of the back wall of the house where we played in the cool shade as children. But the most incredible part of the yard that captivated my attention was the huge peach tree at the far back of the yard beside the garage. I remember this tree as being humongous. Admittedly, I was probably less than 3-feet tall, so I can't really tell you how big it was, but to my little eyes, it was the biggest tree I ever saw.
I remember the tree in winter, naked of leaves and fruit, reaching it's gnarled arms to the sky. In the spring, when my grandma was hoeing the soil in preparation for planting, the tree was dressed in fluffy pink flowers. But late in the summer was the very best time because the peaches were ripe and ready to pick....big round fuzzy balls tinged with red. Golden yellow-orange flesh with a pit that came right out when my grandma pulled it apart for me. With sweet, sticky juice up to my elbows, my arms would be hosed off before going inside, and if I was lucky, I'd get a full body spray that would send me into raucous screams and laughter.
At the end of the summer, my grandma would can the peaches for the winter. She always peeled them layering them pit side down into jars. I always thought they looked like giant egg yolks piled up in Mason jars. But the most spectacular time was in the middle of winter, when it was bitter cold outside, and my grandmother would bring out a big bowl of golden peaches so we could taste summer again.