Today, I walked across the street, and, for the first time, felt the need to pick a plum from the wild-growing plum tree there. This may not really seem to be a lot, but it sure meant a lot to me.
You see, we have this plum tree in my front yard. It’s red, with a dark brown trunk, and whippy red branches and fuzzy red leaves. And then, there are these little red plums. The plum tree has been there since before I can remember, since before I was born, in fact. Every summer in my memory, I can remember plucking plums from that tree and eating them. They ripen in mid-June, a sweet, sweet taste, their size being just a little bigger than a thumbnail. But I’ve always liked them in late April or early May, when they are bitter, but large enough so the seed is already formed.
They bloom in late February or early March, white blossoms whose petals fall off, littering our driveway in sheets, so many of them you can’t see the actual driveway underfoot. We call it our snow.
I can remember countless summers where my mother backed her white Toyota 4Runner out of the garage and parked it under the tree. She would sit inside with a bag, while I, still small, climbed onto the top of the car, reaching up into the higher branches of the trees to reach the best plums.
I can remember one summer, the summer which my grandmother came, we plucked bucketfuls of plums so she could make plum jam.
I can remember, when my parents got divorced, not wanting to move because, where else would we find a plum tree just like ours?
I can remember the first summer we had our dog, where I cut out the seed and fed her the plum, so that she could taste our special fruit.
And to this day, I can describe the color of the plums to you: they are a red, not a deep red, but this special shade of red which I you can only describe by seeing them. They have these dark red pockmarks on them, which speckle their surface. They have yellow flesh inside, but if they’re especially ripe, the flesh will be red. The skin is kind of translucent, so that when they’re ripe, you can see a little bit of the yellow inside. And, of course, you’ve got to be careful not to eat one a worm has crawled in to.
And that’s why, when I picked a plum from the wild-growing plum tree across from our house, I did so because I could not bear to go a summer without plums. And that meant that I had accepted that our plum tree wasn’t going to bloom.
We have three plum trees around our house; one is young, and inedible because it is so bitter. One of them, located in our backyard, has green leaves and a normal brown trunk, and blooms much later with much bigger, sweeter plums. But my favorite plum tree is the one in the front yard, the one that I described to you: a red plum tree, with whippy red branches, and a dark red trunk that looks a dark brown, and of course, red plums.
Those plums are the memory of summer for me. They are my childhood, and everything bittersweet (literally–they are bittersweet). But that doesn’t mean it’s time to say goodbye yet. My plum tree is just going into an early retirement.