The Peach Tree at Home
‘Six months, maybe a year.’ That’s all I really hear or understand, though my dad keeps talking like he’s afraid to stop. My mom holds his hand tightly and tries to smile, tries to be brave for us. But above her shoulder, out the large window, I can see our peach tree. The slight breeze rustles the sickle-shaped leaves surrounding the ripe fruit. ‘She won’t see next summer’s peaches,’ is the only thought my brain can hold. I don’t know yet that she won’t live to see the early blossoms of spring.
I avoid the peach tree after she’s gone. I don’t even allow myself a peripheral glance through the window. I can’t face the sweet memories turned rotten through grief. I don’t let myself remember how she’d set me on her shoulders so I could reach the ones at the ‘tippy, tippy top’, or proudly walking with her to deliver boxes of peaches to grateful neighbors, or how she taught me to make peach jam, taught me how to sneak snitches when no one was looking. I stay away from the tree. Away from the memories.
Months of avoiding go by before I finally venture into the backyard and sit on the stone bench beside our peach tree. It looks bad, weighed down, and drooping. It smells awful. Rotting peaches on the ground. But I am not upset by the appearance and stench. Both match my feelings. It’s darkly satisfying. I will be leaving for college in a few weeks and I am glad. I do not want to be home with the memories.
But I can’t stay away. Spring comes and I come home to see the blossoms. I have to somehow. I am sitting on that old stone bench. The boughs have been trimmed. There’s no festering fruit at my feet. The blossoms are in full pink bloom. I am here and I let myself remember. My heart speaks and I listen. This is grief. This is joy. This is pain. This is beauty. This is home.