Now and then, an apricot tree springs up in the back yard of my memory, where our old house stands, once our mother’s family home. A chartreuse canopy traces lacey shade on warm brown earth below. The wind sings the same lullabies it sang to her. She’s replanted her favourite blooms from childhood: violets, lavender, stocks, forget-me-nots. My favourite blossom is the apricot. This tree is our friend. We climb it almost every day in hazy summers when the sky is blue as a kingfisher’s wings and scent of windfalls fills the steamy air. It gathers us into its gnarled arms as we clamber up, nimble as possums, past ancient whorls left from years of pruning. Each sister finds her special branch. Perched on king-of-the-castle seats, bare legs swinging, we gorge on fruit fresh as a sunset sky. It was meant be dropped in Mum’s basket. She’ll labour for ages with Dad’s hammer splitting apricot stones to flavour her conserves. One spring day my little sister makes a wand, complete with cardboard star. She winds tinsel around the piece of dowel our father finds. Dad grabs his Pentax. Snaps her perched in the tree with starry eyes and winking cheeks, in a hand-me-down organdie frock. Who cares if there isn’t an apricot flower fairy in my favourite Cicely M. Barker picture book? Dad is tired of sawing, painting and fixing. When the contract is signed, our mother’s inconsolable. She says: You sold my heritage. We move to a newer suburb. The old house is consigned to the past. Now and then I still drive by. The tree has gone. Except when it pops up in my mind. a cluster of apricot blossoms in aching sun inside each petal a child's smile
About this poem
This year I have missed my family in Victoria. A box of apricots bought at a roadside stall triggered this tanka prose based on childhood memories. I wanted to explore how the senses come to life during children’s play and how easily time and separation can dull that spontaneity. Writing helped me through the worst of the Covid period.