Yonks ago I went hunting for a family home but instead I bought a tree. I was accompanied by my young daughter and my mother, then approximately 85 years old. That was before dementia claimed her memories and the essence of her soul, her joie de vivre.
We have been driving around for a long time when the real estate agent stopped in front of another fixer-upper – all I could afford on my income – for the umpteenth time on that hot summer afternoon. One look at the run-down property and the neglected garden drew a long sigh from my inner depths.
“Look at the tree,” my mum said. I looked, disinterested at first, but then my spirits lifted and I stepped out of my car. The tall peppercorn tree towered over the house – how many storeys high? – its scraggly dry branches almost devoid of leaves slowly moving in the wind.
“If that tree could talk, imagine what stories it could tell,” my mum said and I smiled at her. Both of us were born and bred in the sparsely populated and arid Northern Cape region where only the hardiest of trees survived: peppercorns, blue gums and quiver trees. Finding this old giant in the city more than a thousand kilometres away felt like coming home. I don’t remember inspecting the structure or even looking at the inside of the house that day. I only remember calling for the contract and signing on the dotted line.
The next few years we spent most of our free time and almost all of our savings on fixing up the house. The structure turned out to be in amazingly good condition and we added paving stones, a double garage and a family room, and refurbished the bathrooms and kitchen. Then we turned our attention to the garden which we planned and landscaped around the heart of it – the old peppercorn. We called in the assistance of a tree doctor who estimated the tree’s age at 80+ years. The same age as my mum.
During the day while I was at work my mother watched the doves and wild birds feeding in the tree, and the dogs playing on the lawn in front of her bedroom window. The peppercorn grew taller and more majestic, the now neatly trimmed branches dense with leaves swaying in the breeze. In the late afternoons and over weekends we sat in our lawn chairs in its shade.
Whilst we rejoiced in the tree’s rejuvenated appearance, my mum grew older, smaller and frailer in body and mind, and eventually, we had to move her to a facility for the aged. She still came to visit over weekends and every now and then she repeated the same old phrase: “If this tree could talk, imagine what stories it could tell.”
Upon retirement, we moved out of the house and my mum passed away shortly after. The heart of the house was gone, but the peppercorn still remains – we check every now and then from our new far-away location, and we remember.
Linda said: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “tree.” Use the word “tree” or write about a tree. Any kind of tree. Enjoy!
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