© David Volk

Not too long ago, my mother-in-law came back from a walking my children with an unexpected bulletin. It seems my daughter reported that my son had eaten a grape off the sidewalk while their grandmother wasn’t looking.

Since she had raised successfully raised three children, this news did not especially bother my mother in law, but it started my spidey senses a-tingling. And not just because said grape likely would have been a little dirty, a little rotten and a whole lot nasty.

No, it was because we generally don’t have a lot of random grapes just lying around on the ground in our neighborhood. In fact, I’d venture a guess that unless you live near some sort of park with picnic tables, you probably don’t see a lot of grapes on the street, either.

Common sense told me it was more likely some sort of potentially poisonous berry that had fallen from a plant in a neighborhood garden, so I quickly scooped up my kids, herded everyone into the car, then sped to the scene of the crime with my mother-in-law playing navigator. Hyped on adrenaline, I pulled my daughter out of the car and asked her to show me another “grape” so I’d be able to take a picture to e-mail to poison control or have an example to take to the hospital with me when my son began frothing at the mouth and barking at a moon only he could see. Unfortunately, three year-olds make notoriously bad witnesses and I had to grill her several times before I could get her to show me a plant with a similar grape.

Armed with that information, I knocked on the door of the person who lived on the property with the garden and was met by a little old lady who patiently listened to my story, then told me she had no idea what kind of plant it…

NO IDEA?! NO IDEA?! HOW CAN YOU HAVE A PLANT ON YOUR PROPERTY AND NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS? DON’T YOU KNOW PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE AT STAKE, MAN. OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE,” I felt like yelling at her while grabbing her by the lapels and shaking her. The only problem was she didn’t have lapels and she wasn’t a man.

By the time all was said and done, it was determined that the plant was likely a bluebell, an expert reassured my wife that the buds weren’t toxic, my son appeared fine and I was left grumbling over how anyone including a three year-old could consider random grapes sitting on the sidewalk a common occurrence.

The story didn’t end there, though.

Several months later, I was attending a family wedding in Boca Raton, Florida and found myself walking along A1A from my hotel to the parking lot down the street where my car was parked, the grape incident long-forgotten.

Unfortunately, I had left my sunglasses in the hotel and the sun was so bright I had to keep looking down to protect my eyes. And that’s when I saw them.

Random grapes along the roadside. One here, another five feet away, a third a few foot beyond that. There were several more just scattered along the roadside in the block walk from hotel to car.


Maybe my daughter knows more than she’s letting on.