Mike ErvinI’m rethinking prunes, the same way I rethought Fleetwood Mac.

Prunes and Fleetwood Mac were my two biggest emotional triggers. Encountering them in the course of life released a tsunami of hostility in me, and so I avoided exposure to them at all turns.

My prune trigger is a cripple thing. But my Fleetwood Mac trigger was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I lived in a college dorm when the Fleetwood Mac album “Rumours” came out. Everybody in the galaxy owned a copy of “Rumours,” except me. Why buy a copy when if I wanted to hear it I just had to step out in the hall? At any given hour “Rumours” was playing on three or four different stereos in the dorm.

It got to where I felt if I heard “Rumours” one more time I might snap and go on an ax murdering spree. That’s a terrible affliction because it’s impossible to go through life without being ambushed at some point, at a party or in the background music at a store or wherever. About the only way to avoid “Rumours” is to hide under the bed wearing powerful noise-canceling headphones, which I often considered as a lifestyle option.

Well it took 40 years, but these days I can sit through almost an entire song from “Rumours” before I start looking around for an ax. I don’t know what happened to soften me but I’m glad it did. It’s time for me to clear away old resentments. I have to make room for the new ones.

But my prune trigger came about because so many adults pushed them on me when I was a criplet. Prunes were a frequent food tray item when I was a teenage inmate at a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). They also served us prunes a lot at cripple summer camp.

Prunes symbolized what I shouldn’t trust about uncrippled adults. Uncrippled adults always had an agenda. Everything they gave me or did for me was designed to achieve an “outcome.” With prunes, I assumed, the desired “outcome” was for me to take a crap. I didn’t know why my taking a crap was so important to the uncrippled adults or why they thought I needed their intervention to achieve that outcome. Taking a crap was one of the things I did best. I took one daily, efficiently, with no help from anyone.

So I never ate any of their prunes, and this act of defiance made me feel powerful and in control. Maybe I couldn’t boycott the therapies or counseling sessions or clinics at the cripple school, but I didn’t have to cooperate when it came to prunes. And they never put me in a straitjacket and force-fed them to me, much to my surprise.

Like my Fleetwood Mac trigger, my prune trigger remained super sensitive well into my adult life. If I passed a bottle of prune juice or a can of prunes in a store, I couldn’t help but say “God I hate prunes!” And the thing is, I didn’t really hate them. I just felt obligated to hate them and to state my disdain loud and clear. It was my subconscious way of speaking out against cripple oppression, I guess.

But recently I was snooping through the refrigerator when I came across an unmarked container. Inside the container were prunes! Yikes! I guess they belonged to my wife. Emotionally, it was like opening one of those gag cans of peanut brittle where you lift the lid and snakes shoot out. But with age comes perspective. Instead of freaking out, I paused to consider the whole phenomenon of prunes. They’re just fruit, I told myself. There’s no reason to feel threatened by them. They can’t hurt you anymore. You took them on and you won! You’re a grown man now. You don’t have to keep proving to everybody that you’re a strong, independent, in-charge cripple by reaffirming your contempt for prunes. If you want to eat a prune, eat a prune, dammit!

It was at that moment that I finally made my peace with prunes. And it felt as if an enormous emotional weight was lifted.
I put the container back in the fridge. I still didn’t eat any of the prunes. One step at a time.