On the street where my grandmother lived, there was a loquat tree. Into that tree, it seems, I climbed each and every day on my walk home from school. Of course, at the time I did not know anything about loquat trees, only that the tree was smooth barked, low branching and free of thorns; the fruit were sweet and somehow still had a zing, the meat on the fruit was like peach (I didn’t know about peaches then, this is a comparison I can only make now, for the benefit of the reader), and that the large smooth seeds were easy to separate from the fruit and spit out. The light fuzz on the outside of the fruit brushes away easily with a light rub between the fingers, and if you eat it with the fuzz on anyway it adds a hint of bitterness to the flavor and makes the texture more complex on the tongue. I must have eaten pounds of these small fruit every year.. My grandmother, who surely saw me loitering in the tree down the crooked concrete driveway that led to her house from the street, used to admonish me not to swallow the pits, or I’d have a tree sprout in my tummy. I don’t know that she ever elaborated on this, but I was sure it would lead to a very serious tummy ache, plus – the pits can be sizeable – so I don’t recall ever trying to swallow any.
Eventually I changed schools, and no longer walked home to my grandmother’s house. Later still, I moved from Rio de Janeiro to Sausalito, California, and the tree I used to love climbing in so much never crossed my mind again. Never, that is, until Roxanne and I went to visit friends in Los Angeles, and there, lo and behold, they have a loquat tree right on the pitch of their front yard, on a hillside that faces west.
That was four years ago. I ate from the tree till my teeth were yellow and my stomach told me it was time for a short break (I went to take my fill at least twice a day, for the entire time we were there). This summer, we returned to visit our friends there again, and again the loquat tree was laden with fruit dripping in bunches from its sprawling low branches. Fruit so thick that in some places they looked almost like giant fuzzy yellow grapes.
Again I gorged myself on the tree’s bounty, spending ten minutes here, thirty minutes there. Alone, I circled the tree probing the low branches, reaching for little bites of my childhood, just inside the jumbled veil of broad green leaves.
I even swallowed a pit or two by accident; my grandmother would have chided me… but my tummy never bothered me a bit.
This time, I brought home some of the seeds. Not many, but enough I hope, to give sprouting a tree here a try. There is no hope that it might ever grow here in Colorado . .. but at least it will give me the chance to nurture a little sapling memory that threads together our friends in California, and my schoolboy years in Rio de Janeiro; it will bring a living thing into our home, that reminds me of the places I’ve been and the people there that I’ve loved… what else have we that is more worth the effort?
Maybe some day I’ll live somewhere where I can tend to a loquat tree in the yard, and my grandchildren may learn to enjoy the sweet zingy fruit as well.