The boxes were from one of the big orchards in California's Imperial Valley, but the paper labels on them had an Arabian theme, with camels and tents, palms and sand dunes, and stars and a crescent moon hanging in a cerulean sky. To tell the truth, I liked the labels more than I liked the dates. Dates were not my favorite food. I'd much rather have had a bag of the Mexican candy that was also popular around this time of the year. A big chunk of panoche would have been far more appealing to me than were these sticky little fruits with their stiff, papery skins and stringy fibers clinging to their long, pointed seeds.
After my grandfather retired and the family business was closed, we seldom had dates. I can't say I missed them. But in recent years I've developed a nostalgia for them, and when I saw dates on sale at Safeway I impulsively picked up a package. It's a plastic box, not wooden, and the label is nondescript, but I'm sure the pound of dates inside will be sufficient to satisfy my nostalgic craving, and probably to make me heartily sick of them for another year. I'd still rather have panoche, of course, but that isn't available in this backwater at any price.