65. Lemon Tree

65. Lemon Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Lemon Tree

The world only goes round by misunderstanding.

~Charles Baudelaire

It was a bright and sunny spring afternoon. As I washed dishes, I looked out my kitchen window and saw Pat, my roommate, admiring her miniature lemon tree. It had been three years since she planted that tree, and each year she would baby it, hoping it would grow lemons. The tree had reached approximately four feet. There were three leaves growing on a single branch. Pat looked so happy and content. This year, it seemed it would finally grow those long-awaited lemons.

“Grandma, do you have any work for me? I need fifteen dollars.”

I asked, “What do you need fifteen dollars for, Anthony?”

My twelve-year-old grandson wanted to make some extra money to go to the local amusement park. I was a little hesitant to pay him for doing work that I felt he should have done for free. After all, I was his grandmother.

After thinking for a while, I decided it would be nice for him to mow the backyard. I also wanted him to mow around the stone walkway close to the hedges and trim around Pat’s lemon tree.

“Okay, Anthony, I want you to mow the backyard. I want you to mow everything, especially the stone walkway and as close to the hedges as possible.”

Anthony was a little more excited than I thought he would be.

He said, “You want me to mow everything?”

I told him yes, mow everything. I had to go to the store for an hour or so, but I would pay him when I got back. In exchange, he had to promise that he would take his time and do a good job.

He said, “Okay. So, you want me to mow everything?”

Again, I said yes, “Everything.”

Pat was also on her way out. She said she would be back in a few hours.

As I drove up toward the driveway on my return from the store, I noticed three little leaves on a lone branch sticking out of the trash can. I quickly parked my car and ran to the backyard.

“Oh, my goodness!” I was almost in a state of panic. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The tree was gone. The whole tree was gone!

I could imagine how Pat would yell. “You always have to be specific with children because they can only do what they comprehend,” she’d say. This was one of those moments; I should have been specific with Anthony. I should have told him to mow everything except the lemon tree.

“Anthony! Anthony!” I yelled, but no answer. What the heck had this kid done?

I ran back to the trashcan and looked inside, hoping to replant the tree, but it was cut up into six little pieces. I shoved all the pieces back into the trash can. I had to do something, but what? I decided I would buy another tree and plant it before Pat returned.

Rushing around town, I went to three home improvement stores, but no luck. I could not find a tree that remotely resembled Pat’s lemon tree. Oh, no! It was getting late, and Pat would be so angry if she got home and saw her tree missing. I had to do something, and I had to do it quickly.

“A nursery… I could go to a nursery.”

As I hurried toward the neighborhood nursery, I said a little prayer. “Please let there be a lemon tree.” My prayers were answered. There was a tree that kind of resembled Pat’s lemon tree. I asked the owner to cut a few of the branches and pluck the leaves. Not perfect, but it looked a lot like Pat’s tree.

As soon as I got home, I rushed to the backyard to plant the lemon tree. I had to replant it once because I planted it with the leaves on the right side and remembered they had been on the left side. Just as I finished replanting the tree, Pat came home. I heard her calling my name. I yelled back and told her I was in the backyard. As soon as she came outside, I could see her eyes focused on the tree.

“I can’t believe it!” she yelled. I couldn’t believe it, either. She had noticed the tree. I should have been honest with her. I should have told her the truth. I should never have wasted my time and money. That’s what I deserved for trying to cover for my grandson.

“I can’t believe it!” Pat kept yelling. She looked at me and said, “I told you that you have to be specific when telling kids what to do.” She was shaking her hand, pointing to the tree. “You have to keep an eye on kids. You have to monitor them because they do what they want to do.” I could see the expression on her face, and she was reaching a state of anger.

“Where is Anthony?” she asked. “Don’t you pay him a dime!” She walked away toward the house. “Anthony! Anthony!” she yelled.

How could she have known? I thought I had trimmed the tree to look exactly as the old one. I was physically exhausted from running around town looking for that tree. I was also becoming emotionally drained. No matter how hard I had tried to replace that tree, Pat had noticed. Now, I had to hear her complaining for hours, maybe even days.

As soon as I entered the house, Pat looked at me and said, “I can’t believe Anthony didn’t listen to me.” She was angry. “Where is he?”

Just as she started to walk toward the living room, Anthony walked in the door. Pat said, “Anthony! Why didn’t you do as I told you?” Anthony looked confused. “Didn’t I tell you to cut down that tree?” I almost fainted; I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

Anthony said, “I did cut it down.”

“Well, if you cut it down, then what the heck is that in the backyard?!”

~Irene Estrada

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