As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently writing a memoir of my parents. There is so much to say, and not all of it will fit into the memoir. Like my father’s garden; I’m not sure where it will go, or even if it will end up in the book at all.
I’ve written about my father’s garden before, in my morning pages journal that I’ve kept for nearly thirty years, in various blog posts, and even in one of my books. In other words, I write about my father’s garden a lot.
That’s because there’s a lot to say about it. I’m not sure I’ll ever come to the end of my writing about it. Because somewhere in those many words lurks the spirit of my father, the one he showed when he was in his garden, and the one his garden reflected back to him and anyone else lucky enough to enter this sacred space. In that garden was the man he was at his very core, the spirit where his human faults and failings had no reality and the only reality is love and a vibrant joy of life.
Even though the words will never be enough, I feel I have to try, whether it ends up in the final book or not. So here is another piece I wrote about his garden, this one about his King Apple Tree. Much of this was written some years ago, but that is alright; because gardens can go on forever, as can memories. As long as you write them down.
King of the Garden
In my father’s garden is an old apple tree. It bears King apples, the kind they don’t sell in grocery stores because they have a short shelf life. But in their eating prime King apples are the King of Fruits, truly. They are crisp and when you bite into them the sweet tart juice spurts against your teeth and shoots down your throat, spraying its essential appleness over your tongue and uvula, and you will shiver with delight.
Last year the King apple tree had only seven apples on it, owing to the severe pruning my brother had given it the preceding year in a vain attempt to be helpful. Everyone was disappointed, for the October King apple picking is a beloved tradition in the family. All my father’s children and grandchildren, all ten of us, claim an apple on the tree from the time it is just out of its bud stage, and we watch with proprietary interest as it develops little by little through the long summer months.
Last year when there were only seven apples we “children” reluctantly gave up our King apple inheritance so the seven grandchildren could have the apples instead. How unselfish, how virtuous, we are! We learned it from our parents.
My father was angry at the tree and talked sternly to it – he informed the tree that it was not acceptable to produce only seven apples, and if it didn’t do better in the coming year, he would have to cut it down. Only producers are allowed in his garden, he told the tree.
The rest of the family howled against this infamous threat, although few of us really believed he would carry it out. Still, some of us may have sneaked out to the King apple tree in the evenings and talked to it in calmer, more conciliatory tones. We asked it, with all due respect, if it would please produce more next year, assuring it that we would not let Dad chop it down.
I don’t know which conversations produced the desired effects, but this year the King apple tree hung low to the ground with heavy dense apple flesh. There were even enough to fatten the marauding birds who loved to poke their sharp beaks into the smooth sides of the apples and suck the sweet juice down their tiny throats.
Last week we picked the apples. Everyone got some, and at this very moment there is an uneaten King apple in my refrigerator, a treat I am saving for tomorrow’s lunch.