90: The Peach Tree

90: The Peach Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

The Peach Tree

Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer.

~Terri Guillemets

When I was twenty-two, I volunteered for my church’s home fellowship program and left Pennsylvania for a year. I drove across the country to Edwardsville, Illinois with my two enthusiastic roommates, George, a college boy, and Michael, a seminary student. Four of us were supposed to go, but the other girl chickened out.

We pooled our money and rented a small house. We did odd jobs, ran a Friday night fellowship, and made friends. Unfortunately, we didn’t make a lot of money. SIU students had apparently snagged all of the coveted jobs at the beginning of summer. The guys and I stretched every penny, but our meals barely fed us. My family didn’t approve of my adventure, so there was no way I’d ask them for help.

I poked around the yard one day, wondering if I could grow vegetables. One of my neighbors, Mrs. Norris, leaned over the fence. Her garden was in perfect condition. A daisy bobbed in her silvery bun. She waved a powdered jelly doughnut as she talked.

“You got nothing but weeds and grass, dearie. This here’s August. The growing season is almost over. Besides, you don’t get enough sun.”

I had to agree. Her enormous oaks shaded our small yard, where a few shrubs and a tree struggled to survive. We kept the lawn mowed. Sometimes, I’d sit outside, writing and trying not to be homesick, missing my large, noisy family.

Powder from the doughnut floated in the air like sugary snow. My stomach rumbled. I hadn’t had sweets in ages. I swallowed and leaned against the tree, dislodging a few leaves. A small, hard ball bounced off my foot. I picked it up.

“Hey, isn’t this fruit?” It smelled mossy and old, not like a juicy apple or pear.

“Nothing to get excited about.” Mrs. Norris chewed the last bite. A bee settled on her daisy. I stifled my giggles. She continued.

“That peach tree’s been coming up green for the last ten years, but it never ripens.” She nodded her head and the bee zoomed off to bother another flower.

“I imagine crows and squirrels get a bellyache just thinking about it.” After a few more discouraging comments, she hobbled back into her house.

I sat down, back against the tree, tempted to have a long cry. Michael and George were wonderful, big brothers who made me laugh even though they didn’t share my love of books. None of us really knew how to cook; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and oatmeal weren’t going to keep us full in the winter. Maybe we hadn’t been practical, running off for a year of service, but didn’t it count that our hearts were in the right place?

I peered up through the leaves, squinting at the faint patch of blue sky.

“God, we need a break. I could also use a chocolate chip cookie and a Big Mac. Maybe this seems stupid to You, but I’ve got a craving for pie topped with vanilla ice cream.” I waited for thunder to roar at my impudence, but only a bird cheeped in the branches. Tossing the shrunken fruit aside, I headed to town. Time to sweep the library floors.

The next week was a turning point.

Michael challenged the owner of the local grocery store to let him work for free. After two days, he was offered a full-time job. George made friends wherever he went, and got a job at the local factory. A happy mistake landed me a job as a waitress.

Me a waitress? I was terrified, but soon learned that a smile went a long way. My tips weren’t big, but for the first night in a long time we all had Big Macs and French fries for dinner. After the dishes were done, the guys visited friends.

I went outside and spread a sheet under the tree. A few yards over, kids were playing baseball, calling out the plays in shrill, excited voices. The smell of barbecue drifted on the breeze. I flopped on my stomach and something soft squished under my T-shirt. Sticky wetness seeped over my chest.

“Aw, man!” I cautiously peered under the blanket then, disbelievingly, scooped up a pulpy, squished mess.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Juice dripped through my fingers. I licked a drop. Peaches didn’t get any sweeter! I stared at the tree. The gnarled trunk didn’t seem any different, but several peaches nestled in the branches.

“Peaches! We’ve got real live peaches!” Whooping like a little kid, I danced around the yard, gathering the fruit in the sheet and almost fighting over the last one with a squirrel. I hurried into the house and washed them. I arranged the eight peaches in a cracked blue bowl and placed it on the kitchen table. They were beautiful, gold and softly blushing, just like at the store.

We had a peach tree.

“God, ain’t you something, as my grandma Velma would say.” My voice choked up and I wiped away a happy tear. Wait until I told George and Michael. Getting jobs was wonderful, but a peach tree returning to life was amazing. I suddenly knew that this year wasn’t going to be a waste.

I’d see God’s heart.

Tomorrow, I’d make pie. While it was still warm, I’d take Mrs. Norris a piece. Then, I was going to sit outside and eat a slice of peach pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

~Karla Brown

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