I was ridiculously excited to see the apple tree — not in full and glorious spring bloom — but alive and in leaf. This isn’t any apple tree, but rather the apple tree.
Perhaps it was because it was my mom’s birthday yesterday, or perhaps I was feeling just a bit homesick or nostalgic, whatever the reason, I “google mapped” the house that my dad built and where I grew up. My family no longer owns the the house, but the tree? That tree will always be my tree.
My father spent years — decades — trying to get rid of it. He chopped it down. He dug up the roots and hacked them with an axe. He sprayed it with insecticides and pesticides and each time, the tree grew back.
He’d leave it for awhile, particularly, I think when I moved away. The tree began to represent the stubborn daughter. Hack. Chop. Spray. The tree flourished. Each time growing stronger.
The legend of the tree goes back to when I was a little girl. I ate copious amounts of apples. Two a day, three a day, four. By the time I was in junior high, I polished off a three-pound bag most days between after school and supper.
Dad said he remembered the day I threw the core where the apple tree now grows. He challenged me about littering. I challenged him right back, declaring apple cores were not litter, they were like the rabbit droppings he had used to “pollute” my tender potato patch. Apple cores were natural. They came from the earth and were part of the earth.
And that was the apple core of Dad’s discontent. Years and years and years of frustration.
The problem was that the core nestled itself in the little space between ordinary ground and the mortarless rock wall he’d built along the front and side of the house. He loved that two-foot wall and it was a source of pride.
And the tree grew.
It also grew directly, in the dead centre of one of the front windows of the house — the window he most liked to look out to see the river. And every time he looked out that window, he saw the stubborn tree.
The year he told me he had sprayed it with insecticides was a good one. To have insects, it would have had blossoms. And if it had blossoms, it might have borne fruit.
“I chopped it down before that happened,” he said. “The flies were something awful and it was way too big.”
He chopped. He hacked. He sprayed. The tree flourished.
Dad died. And so did Mom. The tree was in full leaf and good health when I sold the house. I was in full mourning — for my parents, the house, and the life I once knew. I walked through the house and shops and all over the yard remembering and intentionally leaving my spirit.
I ran my hand along the trunk of the tree and gave it a pat. I wondered about the new owners. I wondered if they’d leave the tree that sprouted from the seeds discarded and defended by a young girl.
Seeing it yesterday in that “street view” map, I wonder if they tried.