A lone tree in a back yard
Our family, Mom, Dad, Susan, and me (Brad) moved into the house Mom grew up in after Gramma passed away and Gramma’s will said Mom got her house. I was nine years old. We’d been living in the city, in a third-floor walk-up apartment. So this was a big move for all of us: adjusting from city life to ruralism.
In the city I had a lot of friends; we played dodge ball in the apartment building’s courtyard, we walked to the corner store for candy and ice cream, we walked to/from school in all types of weather, we sat and joked and talked on the steps in front of the building summer nights, running/dashing through the spray of opened fire hydrants on the sidewalk on the hottest days.
Now, though, we had moved to Gramma’s old house in what I thought was the middle of nowhere. No sidewalks. No courtyard. No corner store to walk to. We had a front porch, but I knew I’d have no one to talk to. No fire hydrant in sight after a quick sight-check.
The movers completed their task of transferring our stuff. Mom and Dad decided what to keep of Gramma’s furniture and could it be replaced by ours’ from the apartment.
It had been a long day for me. I wanted to go to bed. I ascended the stairs that first night and entered what I’d been told would be MY bedroom. I walked in and saw posters tacked to the wall: Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Marlon Brando – and a twin bed pushed up against the wall. My reaction was, “Ooo-k-aaaaay.”
I managed to fall asleep and got a good night’s rest.
“Did you get all of them?” Mom asked from the bottom of the ladder.
“I think so.”
I was on a ladder propped up against a tree.
Gramma’s (now our) house was surrounded by hay fields. The plot was carved out of the expanse. We had a front yard, a “side” yard (really a strip of grass and weeds), and a back yard consisting mostly of grass except for one tree. When I performed my boy-only task of mowing the grass, I was always mindful of the tree: I didn’t want to knick it, injure it, crash into it. I hated that it was in “my way.”
It was an apple tree.
To me, at that time, it was just another tree. It blossomed in spring and in late summer we marveled at the apples hanging from its branches.
Mom, who was now Gramma’s age when she passed, said, “Becky, your yams are yummy.” Being a writer, I marveled at Mom’s alliteration skills, but I kept that thought to myself. We ate.
After a pause, I asked, “Mom, why did Gramma and Grampa have only one tree in their back yard?”
She chewed and swallowed her piece of turkey. “Your grandfather planted it for your Gramma as a birthday gift because he knew it would keep on giving. And he wanted that to continue.”
We, at the table fell silent, but, we kept eating.
And in that moment of silence, I reflected back on that tree. I avoided it as child mowing the grass in fear of injuring it; through the years, we harvested the apples it produced; as a result of that tree I got to eat: fresh apples with the satisfying “crunch” sound”, apple pies, apple fritters (occasionally), fried apples, apple dumplings, apple cakes, applesauce, apple juice, apple pancakes, and my favorite, Mom’s Jewish Apple Cake.
I, then, understood the importance of that tree.
It was a tree but it provided generations of sustenance, and in my case, memories.
Becky, my sister-in-law, pushed her chair back and asked, “Who’s ready for dessert? We have two pies – pecan and pumpkin and we have cookies. What does everyone want?”
“I’ll pass...I’m full, but thanks.”
I longed for a slice of apple pie.