Life’s Little Surprises – The Grapefruit Seed

Delightful and unexpected surprise!It was somewhere in the late 1970s when I cut open the grapefruit, looking forward to enjoying one of my favorite fruits. There, nestled within, much to my surprise, was a large seed that had already sprouted. I pondered it curiously, wondering how a seed could survive the trip from Florida and then several days in the refrigerator, still showing promise of growth!

“Should we plant it?” I asked the man who would eventually become my first husband. “I mean, it has to be very hearty to have survived this far…” So we planted it. And I didn’t give it much thought, figuring now in actual dirt, the seedling might not even make it. And in that moment, I didn’t even think about the big picture of the future — how would a grapefruit tree ever grow in the harsh, cold climate of New York?

But grow it it did! The little seedling sprung up joyfully, and thrilled with this (and also still very young and imaginative) I decided to give it a name. So I called it Grindel the Grapefruit.

At that time, I thought of this little seed as a metaphor for my relationship with this man, one that was blossoming and showing promise for the future. Grindel continued to grow, as we entered into marriage and began our lives together. I remember that Grindel’s first beautiful green grapefruit-y leaves had a lovely sheen to them and when you would touch one and rub it gently in your hand, the sweet, pungent fragrance of citrus would fill the air.

For climactic reasons, Grindel needed to be an indoor tree so “she” was shuttled around a bit to accommodate her burgeoning size. When she outgrew the house my husband took her to his office, a space which had plenty of room and a ceiling that was tall enough.

I wish I could say that all went well and that my husband and I lived happily ever after — but such was not the case. We had  two wonderful children, but as a couple, we were seriously mismatched. Our marriage ended when the children were young. They came with me, and my husband got custody of Grindel.

We  ended up moving away from our original home and my ex was remarried very quickly — to his divorce attorney, oddly enough. They moved quite a distance away, and I had no clue if they had taken the tree.

Over the years of difficult divorce issues, lengthy and turbulent custody battles, I lost track of Grindel and figured at some point she had gone to that great, radiant orchard in the sky. After the bitter legal battles had finally ended, my ex and I completely lost contact for many years. So you can imagine my utter surprise…

Now move ahead to this past Thanksgiving Day, about thirty-odd years after I first discovered the emerging seed. We were just sitting down to our bountiful feast, when my son arrived to join the rest of us, after having spent the earlier part of the day with his father. He had something wrapped in a white paper towel and I couldn’t imagine what he had brought to our dinner table. After he carefully unwrapped it, I realized it was a somewhat egg-shaped grapefruit — quite yellow, with a tinge of greenish hue at the bottom, perhaps needing a bit more ripening.

“Mom, this is from Dad’s grapefruit tree and he wanted me to bring it to you.” My eyes opened wide and I think my mouth must have nearly dropped open, incredulous. “You mean the same tree I planted from a seed a very long time ago?” “Yes,” he replied. Dad has had the tree all these years and during the winter months he keeps it in his garage so it will stay warm. But it grows fruit, so I have one grapefruit for myself, and one for you!”

This amazing little Thanksgiving surprise had caught me off guard and I was actually a little thoughtful, realizing that though the marriage didn’t last, the real seeds that had been planted — the children — had actually grown, blossomed and matured into well-rounded, wonderful adults, despite all the emotional challenges they had endured through the years.

So don’t be afraid to plant those seeds — especially if there is already some promise in the sprouting. You never know how life may surprise and amaze you, even in the smallest of ways…


  • I plant the seeds of inspiration, nurture them and watch them grow.
  • I encourage myself to be curious and childlike,  and delight in the positive surprises that unfold in my life.
  • I have the courage and motivation to welcome each day with open arms and a sense of wonder.

10 comments to Life’s Little Surprises – The Grapefruit Seed

  • Debbie Schulman

    It’s funny what life has in store for us. Comparing apples to oranges and children to grapefruit.Funny how that happens. Nice story. Keep up the good work.

  • Sheryl

    Hi Debbie – thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the story. I am truly amazed that the seed from so long ago actually thrived and eventually produced grapefruits — even though it might have taken several decades for any fruit to grow!

  • I hope this finds you in great health.

    This was a story well told, and I’m not employing any bias–as a distant cousin (I’m a former editor). Your strategy is as soulful as it is understandable-but I like to tease intelligent folks with a reminder: There is always a dark cloud behind that silver lining. Maybe this will make the fruit seem that much sweeter–I don’t know.

    As with much of what I read, I take issue with focusing on the symmetry and almost glossing over the pain. I hope your wounds are healed, and I sense this is so from all of your postings (which I enjoy). Nevertheless, while he sent you a son with fruit–and while your friends will be snokered by your excellent re-telling of this very pretty story–I sense you’re much too smart to overlook my distaste for rotten acts that men do to their spouses (and taking YOUR tree was the last straw). As paybacks, that S.O.B. oughtta marry a lawyer (oh, yeah, he did!).

    I suppose I most like the Zen of knowing that you’ve dealt with this stuff admirably, but my ethnic background is (surprisingly) old school. I’m not satisfied making sense of senselessness.

    You are very rational, and your outlook is admirable. I still think there is a place for the irrational, too. That’s why I both embrace those who disagree and I’m not afraid to oppose them. After all this time,I still suppose there is something of value in this politic.

    I hope this leaves you in great health!

    Ever your biggest fan, you GREAT writer.

    Cousin David Freed

  • Joay Atkinson

    Beautiful, consciously focusing on something, or not, the good in our life always seems to grow! Thanks for sharing… I always watch what I plant!

  • Wow Sheryl…this really touched my heart in a couple of ways! I too divorced my first husband…so I have tried to imagine, how it must feel after all these years to know that your ex husband continued to nurture Grindel and then shared with your son who then shared with u! There is something very connecting about this story! It also reminds me that u never know what will grow from what we we sow right now!!! Thanks again for your wonderful story 🙂

  • Sheryl

    David – I am responding to you “officially” here. Thanks for taking the time to write to me about my grapefruit story — I do appreciate it. And all good wishes across the miles from your cousin here in NY!

  • Sheryl

    Joay – Thanks for stopping by to comment and share your thoughts. I do believe that the good does tend to grow — especially when we nurture it with kindness!

  • Sheryl

    Shirley – I am so glad this story touched a chord in you! Believe me, this whole grapefruit offering was a huge surprise and totally unexpected. I am amazed that my ex-husband did make the effort to continue to nurture Grindel, and that after all these years “she” is bearing fruit! And you are right — you never know what will bloom from seeds we plant right now. Thanks for your insight!

  • Ewa

    Sheryl thank youfor the grapefruit story. It made me smile and gave me encouragement to be patient and hopeful regarding my children.Sometimes my son shows some cheracteristics of his dad and my ex that make me take a second long look at my baby and bring a wrinkle to my forehead.I hope that my teenager will grow up to be a beautiful, sweet grapefruit tree.
    I admire your look at Grindel situation. Thanks

  • Sheryl

    Ewa – thanks for your comment and I’m glad my story gave you some encouragement. I certainly went through some seriously turbulent teenage years with my son, but he has definitely “blossomed” as a happy, responsible and loving adult. It is certainly normal for your son to show some of the traits of each of his parents, including his dad, but try to hold on to the vision of your son as an individual, one who is developing and maturing. As long as you are supportive and make every effort to bring out the best in him — always letting him know that you love him unconditionally — then I believe he will be fine! Just have to get through those teen years, one step at a time…