… okay, well, not exactly the woods, but an overgrown, clearly unattended garden… if a tomato, or actually a rather lot of tomatos, are going to waste there, dying a slow and tragic death, with no one to mourn their demise, is it stealing to take them home with you?
There’s this school down the street from my house. It’s the one that my boys would attend, if we weren’t homeschooling. We like to ride our bikes there, after hours, to use their playground. Sometimes, for kicks, we even peek in the windows, just, you know, to see.
My boys LOVE the playground. Not because it has any fabulous equipment, but because it is covered in a DEEP ocean of sand. We take our digging tools and buckets, somtimes even gallons of water and make cities. We bury things, important things like a handful of “crystal” pebbles, and make elaborate maps so that we can find our treasures again. We think that pirates frequent the playground by moonlight because try as we might, we never find our treasures again.
I felt good about this playground. It’s close. It’s hardly ever inhabited. But it gives me the feel goods no longer, because now, it’s also the source of my most recent moral dilemma.
See, as part of the playground there are three small boxed in garden plots. One is full of sunflowers, tall, bushy and in serious need of some disciplinary action. One is full of some purplish skinny grainy looking things that are no doubt making a fine hiding place for who knows what kind of critters. The third is overgrown with a meandering mess of herbs and tomato vines. Of about 4 vines, only one has fruit, much of it on the surrounding ground, several with bird/bug holes.
For days, I thought about those tomatoes. I drove past the school and heard the serpent whisper, “pssssst. Free, fresh tomatoes. No one wants them. Come and take them. C’mon. Take and eat. Surely you will not die.”
I wrestled with myself for over it. Would it be stealing? Surely someone planted them, and who plants without coming back for the harvest? But then, who leaves a garden in this condition and expects to have any kind of harvest?
And then it hit me… we pay property taxes for a school that we do not use, save for the playground. There’s a loophole in there somewhere. I’m not sure just how, and I didn’t stop long enough to work out the details. I grabbed my bucket and ran before I could talk myself out of it.
Once there, I figured hey, if I’m going to take the apple (er, tomato), might as well go all out. I picked the green ones too, for frying. (Though I did leave a good bit too, just to appease my conscience a little).
Once home, I got a little giddy with my find. I even played Jane’s Addiction’s, “Been Caught Stealing” on my iPod while I bobbed around the kitchen, making the boys smoothies and snacking on those sun warmed little tomato babies. I was so drunk with my haul that I got reckless and popped a few of my treasures into the smoothies! Why not? Blackberry, blueberry, peach tomato smoothie. That sounds healthy, right? People drink tomato juice, right? Wahoo! Tomato goodness for everyone! Eat, drink, and be merry!
I danced and I sang, and I took a big ol’ gulp of… PUKE!
NEVER, I repeat NEVER put tomatoes in your smoothie. Do NOT try this at home.
Well, I had worked hard for those berries and peaches, and I wasn’t about to pour them down the drain without at least TRYING to feed it to my poor unsuspecting little innocents. I do have a heart though, so I tried to put a little lemonaide in it, you know, perk it up some and then I put it into cups with fancy straws, thinking that a distraction might help too.
“Yay! Smoothies for lunch!” they sang. I started to feel a little bad about not at least warning them.
Much straw sucking, and then…
“Mom, why does this taste like a tomato?” said James. I held my breath.
“Right James, like Mom would put a TOMATO in a smoothie!” said Luke, eyes rolling.
James looked at him, and back to me, then back to him, shrugged his shoulders and drank it down.
Is it lying if you neglect to tell the truth?
I really have no business being a mother.