The Plum Tree's Place In the Yard and in Memory

In 1956, a little house on the corner of Dixie Canyon Avenue was purchased. It sat on the southeast side of the road and became one of the prettiest on the block. The flower beds were ornamented with impatiens, azaleas, and princess flowers, and they advertised their splendor when the sun hit them.

This was Grandma's house when I was a boy. I always looked forward to going there.

In Grandma's yard, right on the corner, stood a beautiful plum tree. Spring was Grandma's favorite time, because every year the plum tree would loudly announce the season with a floral festivity of pink. I remember the beauty its branches gave to our Easter table, and the smiles of appreciation they generated as members of Grandma's church passed by on their way to services.

For years, the plum tree stood like a monument on the corner, bringing tidings of spring. Like a friend who had returned from a long absence, the plum tree illumined Grandma's world. And although it served many purposes, I think its greatest service was the warm place it held in her heart.

During the autumn of 1982, the valley was hit with unusually high winds. Often, when these gales were strong, fallen branches would line the streets, making it difficult for traffic to pass. The winds were eerily forceful and caused rooftops to blow off like baseball caps.

In the aftermath, nature's confetti covered the streets with roof shingles, tree bark, and broken branches. It shrouded the lawns, porches, and patios of every house for blocks. And on the corner of Dixie Canyon, a large fallen tree blocked the road.

The plum tree was lying in front of Grandma's house as though it were patiently waiting for someone to come and steady it back into place. Unlike people, however, trees seldom receive compassionate assistance.

Before long, a city dump truck made a stop by the corner and hoisted Grandma's friend up and away. While we watched, the soil seemed to drip from its roots like tears, as the truck ground its gears and drove off.

In time, the Kentucky grass grew over the vacant indentation, and the the neighbors' houses filled the view.

The following spring, I was working again in Grandma's yard. I had just finished lunch. After putting back on the muddy shoes that I had left outside, I got up to return to the garden. Suddenly, a delicate hand reached up and took hold of mine. When I looked down, I saw Grandma's smile peering up at me.

As she and I stood together in that silent moment, a gentle breeze blew across our faces. The patio chimes began to sing their melodies with the wind, and jasmine tickled our noses. Spring was making its annual announcement.

Surrounded by the art of the season, Grandma led me to the soft ground where the bluegrass blades had migrated. With her delicate hands raised in the air, she gently caressed the imaginary branches of her friend. Then she turned to me with that lofty, impish giggle and said, ''You know, Dahlin', I can still see that plum tree standing right here. Isn't it beautiful?''

I said, ''Yes, Grandma, and it's more beautiful now than ever before!''

Now that I can only look back and imagine her in that wonderful moment, I can understand the wisdom she was impressing upon me. The representations of life, such as beautiful trees or the loved ones we hold dear, are never limited to a temporary existence.

Rather, they remain with us, fondly, as reminiscences to be called upon at a moment's notice. Truly, isn't that the real beauty in life?

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