It was like a yearly ritual with the neighborhood kids, the majority being related to me, that come Spring the watch was on. A random, “See anything?” or “What’s it doin’?” meant one thing; what stage was THE tree at. THE tree being an old plum tree in my grandparents backyard.
Grandpa planted that plum tree before I was born as something to tend to after his retirement. I don’t know why he chose a plum tree. I don’t recall the why ever being brought up. By the time I was allowed to explore the neighborhood with the rest of the kids that tree was big enough to climb and dangle from.
Dangle. We did a lot of dangling when we were young. The neighbor across the street had the best Sycamore tree for that. The limbs grew almost like a spiral staircase, making it easy to reach the top and once flipped over not hit your head on the limbs below. Perfect. That’s another story though. I couldn’t talk about dangling, which we did in Grandpa’s Plum, without thinking about that Sycamore and being compelled to mention it.
Spring progressed as did our anticipation of the fruits of the tree and the letting out of school for Spring break and for the Summer. Do you see, everything meant something and all the somethings, even though enjoyed separately, all meshed together. The stages of the tree were a sort of clock.
Blossoms appeared and were replaced by the beginnings of the best plums ever. We all agreed, they don’t get picked until they’re at least the diameter of a silver dollar and they had to be eaten in the tree and not taken out of the yard. Once the blooms disappeared, the race was on for bragging rights as to who would eat the first plum of the season. Like playing Spades, once a trump was played it opened the field for all trumps to be played, or in the case of the tree, once that first plum was eaten, they could all be eaten but, the size and location still applied. So, most times, bragging rights were given after eating a green, I mean GREEN, REALLY GREEN, plum.
From time to time, although nothing outside of where we were at the time existed, I think now of what the neighbors thought of 10-15 kids in a Plum tree and it makes me giggle. What would you think if you looked out your kitchen window and seen a tree full of kids? It would surely make me smile.
While getting our bellies full off the plums, Grandma, not Grandpa but, Grandma would come out of the back door, hollering for us to”… get out of that thar tree ‘fore yer Granddaddy comes after you! Ya hear me?!” We’d all laugh, not at Grandma really but, more because we knew Grandpa didn’t care one way or another whether we were in that tree or not. He’d smile and wave to us while we were up there. We took off nonetheless.
My grandparents weren’t a lovey-dovey-hand-holding pair at least not that anyone would be witness to. There was a lot of picking and fussing (Grandpa picking and Grandma fussing) between the two. Things may seem like they go unnoticed by kids but they don’t. They just don’t discuss them. Why would they? It meant nothing to me at the time to see Grandpa smiling as he shuffled away from Grandma after he finally got her mad enough to start fussing. Reflecting on it now though, it means a lot. I know they loved each other and made each other happy in their own way.
Grandpa planted the Plum tree and Grandma looked after it. I recall him smiling (like a, “that’s my woman!” kind of look) one time she got onto us about being in the tree. We waved at him and he waved back at us with a smile as we scurried by. She’d turn and go back inside knowing she’d done right by Grandpa and his Plum tree.
In retrospect, I think that Plum tree represented them and their relationship. I reckon one would just had to have been there.
I miss them.