Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Memories of a Loquat Tree

Some of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood are of the loquat tree in our front yard. I imagine the tree was there when my parents and older brothers moved into the house in the early '70s, as it was full grown and productive by the mid-'80s, when these memories were made. I spent many a temperate San Antonio evening in its nook, made easy to access by my resourceful father who nailed three wooden slats to the trunk so I could shimmy my short little body up to the fork between two branches. Often times, I'd escape the madness that was our four-child, two-parent home by taking some melodramatic young adult book or my current diary up there and sit over the driveway, just enough hidden to evade easy detection. (To this day, I'm not sure anyone ever knew that this was my chosen hiding place for all those years.) In the days of early summer, when the fruits would yellow and ripen, I'd eat them straight off the tree, right there in the driveway, using its branches and those of the neighboring tall ash for shade from the relentless Texas sun. Loquat trees actually grew up in yards all around our home. So, on days or evenings when climbing the tree didn't provide enough solace, I'd roam the cul-de-sacs of our quiet, sidewalk-less neighborhood, collecting fallen loquats on the way for food, for what I was sure would be a long, lonely night on the street.

Eventually, the tree had to be chopped down and uprooted -- like many others at the time, it had become infected with some incurable virus (or, so I think). I remember then, even, feeling that this somehow marked the passage of time. I had long outgrown the nook, but even so, the loss of the tree and its fecund branches, stands out as I remember my last few years in San Antonio. I'm not sure what took its place, if anything.

Years later, when I moved to Irvine for graduate school, I discovered just such a tree down the path from my apartment. It had been close to 15 years since the last time I sunk my teeth into the tough skin to the soft, sometimes tart, sometimes sweet, always juicy meat of a loquat. Though they still have a few days to go before reaching sugary perfection, I simply haven't been able to resist plucking a few to relieve the branches from a bit of their droop. Like I used to do when foraging for food on the streets of San Antonio, I cupped my shirt like a basket and piled them in for sustenance for what I was sure would be a long and arduous journey.


samostrower@yahoo.com said...

i miss the loquat tree too

Jessica said...

Really? that's nice to know...

dad said...

really enjoyed your post. Incredibly, Dan, coreen, Josh and Dunc were here and I went to the new house only to find a loquat tree in full fruit. We ate and reflected on our tree from years ago.

I do remember putting up the steps, but not sure I ever appreciated its being a refuge for you.

thanks for the chance to reflect.

Hope all is well.


The Gregson-Ostrower Clan said...

For posterity, you should know two things:

- the tree in question was mature well before we moved in, i believe. i think we ate fruit from it pretty much as soon as we moved in. would ask mom and dad, but of course their memories are not what they used to be.
- it only seems fair to mention that, like so very many things in life, the loquat tree has a dark, more sinister side. along with providing refuge to you, it was responsible for a scar i continue to bear above my left eye. the scar came from a splinter i received when mom pulled back one of the branches as she was walking past the car and then released it, not realizing (or at least that's what she continues to assert)that her innocent 7 year old kid was right behind. i received a splinter the approximately the size of New Jersey, and said splinter became infected.

Dan said...

I had no idea you hid up there! Josh and Dunc really enjoyed the fruit from Mom & Dad's new tree. Funny story...when Josh and Dad first came back from the house with a bunch of fruit, Coreen and the kids started eating them. Coreen kept saying, "This really tastes like a lemon." I finally looked at here fruit and it was indeed a small lemon that she and Dunc were eating rind and all. We went back to the house to investigate but could not find a source of lemons anywhere. Weird. Maybe loquat's have evolved to morph into lemons when under attack!

The Gregson-Ostrower Clan said...

We just bought these odd looking orangish/yelowish fruits at the local market (you could blog for years and years about it - so great) because they looked like something we'd never had. Said to rob at the time - i'd call those loquats but they're way too big. ate one soon after returning home - sure enough, the dinosaur size! yum, but should be sweeter, in my opinion. miss you!