I started packing up the Christmas decorations yesterday. A good number of ornaments were piled under the tree instead of hanging from it, as Kellen enjoyed pulling them off and dropping them on the floor. As I was picking them up, I got a little misty thinking about how this would most likely be the last time I did that particular activity for many years. Next Christmas, Kellen will no longer be a baby. He probably won’t get excited by pulling the ornaments off the tree. Since he is my last baby, I’ll likely be waiting until I become a Grandmother. (Is it weird to hope for grandkids before your own kids are even out of diapers? Ok, not too soon. But one appropriately aged day, fingers crossed).
I was already in a sentimental mood because we finally closed on the sale of our old house yesterday. It has been a long and frustrating process. I am happy to be done with it, but of course, I have a lot of memories from that place, particularly of the tangelo tree in our backyard.
On Christmas day, I made a quick trip over to the house to gather fresh tangelos for margaritas. It is our custom to celebrate Christmas with tamales, guacamole, and other Mexican treats, and nothing beats a good margarita to wash it down. I picked the fruit from the limbs of the tree knowing it would be the last bounty I gathered from the branches.
I thought about the first December I spent in that home. We had only been living in the house for a month when the tangelos grew ripe. Being from Colorado, I had never tasted citrus right off the tree. I thought those tangelos were the sweetest, most delicious fruit my mouth had ever tasted. The tree was huge and heavy with citrus, and I gorged myself on the sweet flesh. We made tangelo juice, muffins, cake, dressing, pie- anything we could put tangelos in, we did. The best reward was that after peeling the skin, my fingers smelled of tangelo for the rest of the day. It is still my favorite scent.
I was reluctant to leave Colorado for Arizona. We moved because of my husband’s job. I did not know anyone in Arizona. Up until that point, I had lived in Colorado for my whole life. I left behind my entire family, most of my friends, my job, my home, the mountains, and most everything I was accustomed to. Besides the warmer weather, those tangelos were the first perks I discovered about my new state. They became the inspiration for the first piece of artwork I made living in Arizona- combining the lilies from my front yard in CO with the tangelos from my backyard in AZ.
I recently read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein to Liam. I was familiar with the story from my own childhood but have not turned its’ pages for more than three decades. As an adult and a parent, I wasn’t sure what to make of the message of the book. Is it good to teach children if you love someone, you will give to them until there is nothing left? I could not help but be reminded of my tangelo tree though, how I have received far more than fruit from its’ branches.
When Liam was just a baby, like most kids, he had times where he would cry and nothing I seemed to do would help. He wasn’t hungry, or tired. He didn’t need to be changed. I attended my support group seeking advice as to what would appease him during these crying jags. The mother sitting next to me piped up in a happy New Zealand accent, “take him outside and lay him under a tree.”
Her appearance gave her away as a bit of a Granola Girl, and I thought she was merely spouting some hippie mumbo jumbo. Next she’d tell me to rub patchouli on his feet. But in a fit of desperation, I took her advice a couple of days later, and laid Liam on a blanket under the tangelo tree. He stopped crying. I don’t know if it was the stark contrast of the brown branches against the blue sky, the fresh air, the change in surroundings, or what- but he stopped crying. From then on, for both of my children, that became my go to trick.
If you live in Arizona, you know many of the houses have these horrible cinder block fences. I’m not sure why that is the material of choice, but they certainly don’t look the most inviting. It kind of makes your backyard look more like a prison yard. Whenever we wanted to take a family photo, we took it by the tree. It looked colorful and alive, and covered up a good portion of that horrible fence. The life cycle of the tree and our family is captured in those pictures.
Perhaps the most memorable characteristic is that the tree had a belly button. A little notch on the bark grew to form this perfect out-ie belly button. Liam discovered it while following an ant walking up the trunk. He loved to point out the belly button on the tree and then show me the one under his shirt. Kellen has recently taken to calling belly buttons “beep beeps.” When I gathered that last batch of tangelos, I glanced at the trees “beep beep” and made a mental picture since I would never see it again.
Goodbye house, goodbye tree. I hope your new family enjoys you as much as we did.