Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lemon Tree

 Ray and Stacy fell in love.

Stacy was 18 years old and had lived on the family’s farm all her life. She couldn’t wait to escape the early mornings helping her mother cook breakfast for her dad and brothers, the all day harvesting in the fall, and the cold and snow of winter.

Ray was 22 and was one of the hired hands who lived in a room just off the barn. He was a hard worker, but shared Stacy’s desire to flee the Midwest.

Ray heard about a job working on a dairy farm in Arizona; he asked Stacy’s family for her hand in marriage, and after a small wedding held by the small pond on the farm, they escaped to a warm land of opportunity.

Ray and Stacy rented a house near the dairy farm. There was a farm feeling in the neighborhood, but with cactus and rock instead of maple trees and meadows. In the backyard, they decided to plant a lemon tree for color and the optimistic vision of a happy life together. Holding hands, they restated their vows under the lemon tree.

The lemon tree did not bear fruit the first year, and neither did Stacy. She miscarried her baby during the unbearable heat of summer, and she sat and cried, under the barren lemon tree.

The second year of living in Arizona was kinder to the young couple. Stacy gave birth to their son in the spring while the wildflowers were blooming and the bouquet of citrus blossoms filled the air. The flowers on their tree were bursting with white purity, so she placed Jacob in his carrier to take his picture, under the lemon tree.

As time flew by and Jacob grew, Ray and Stacy were able to purchase their house. Jacob was an active boy and loved animals. Running around in the back yard was a dog and a cat; two hamsters and one parakeet occupied cages in the house. As the smaller critters died, the family held tearful services and buried them in shoeboxes, under the lemon tree.

The lemon tree flourished, spreading out its waxy green leaves. Ray and Stacy were successful also, and enjoyed picking the fruit, making pies and lemonade, and sharing with the neighbors.

Ray started drinking, lost his job, and argued more with Stacy. When Jacob was 16, Ray and Stacy decided to get a divorce. Ray moved out and Stacy stayed in the house until Jacob graduated from high school. During the monsoon season that same year, a harsh wind tore the lemon tree in two. Half was blown over the fence and down the street, the other half looked bare and lonely. Stacy and Jacob stood together and cried, under the lemon tree.

The house started to decay, and the weeds grew through the rock. Stacy moved back to Iowa to care for her ailing parents, and Jacob stayed in Arizona. He sold the old house and moved into the city. One of the first things he bought for his new home was a lemon tree, which he carefully planted in his backyard. When the first fruit ripened, he held it in the palm of his hand, and remembered the goods times growing up, under the lemon tree.

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