On apricots, bathrooms, and legacies

[Today my friend texted me, “Have you had your fill of apricots yet?” That reminded me of something I wrote four years ago on another blog, and I before I rush off to pick some, then later rush off to the bathroom, I wanted to republish it here.]

This is no ordinary bag of apricots.

It’s a legacy, a reminder of those who are no longer here, or leaving soon.

Apricots are the perfect fruit. In my mind, Eve hands Adam an apricot. She has a whole fig leaf apron full of them. And raspberries jammed in a pocket. (But that’s another story. And no, I’m not sure where Eve would have a pocket.)

I didn’t like apricots until I was about 11 or 12 years old. My oldest sister Judy, married with her own family, came to our house to pick apricots off of our tree during one of the rare years it produced. She taught me how their texture is firmer than peaches, less messy, and more subtle in flavor. And that flavor, when snatched from a tree on a hot August afternoon, was fantastic. She was right—I discovered I loved apricots as I picked them with her. Suddenly, she stopped.

“How many have you eaten?” she asked me.

“About 5 or 6,” I told her.

“Well, stop,” she said as she popped another in her mouth.

Hypocrite, I thought. “Why?”

“Because these will make you the best of friends with the toilet around this time tomorrow.” She swallowed down another one.

“How many have you had?”

“Probably 20,” she said nonchalantly. “I’ve already cleared my calendar for tomorrow afternoon. I’ll hate myself then, but for now? Heavenly!”

She later confessed that on the drive home, she had to put the bucket of apricots in the back of her van, out of her reach. The next day she lived in the bathroom while her husband laughed at her.

“But it was worth it!” Judy insisted when I next saw her. “Fresh and free apricots come only a few weeks of the year, and some years, not at all. Eat them while you can.”

Each year my mother and I watched our apricot tree, cheering at the popcorn-like blossoms and hoping for a good crop. Then, two years out of three, a frost killed the blossoms.

But when we had mild springs? One year we had a huge crop, and came home one day to see little orange bits all over the road in front of our house. Perplexed, we looked up on the hill where our apricot tree stood and saw that half of it was lying on the ground, the weight of so much fruit breaking it. Little apricots had rolled down the hill and became a mushy mess all over the road. Neighbors came to help clean up the mess, my mother made jam for two straight days. At the end, she cursed the little things for being so darned plentiful that year—and Judy and I ate far too many again.

My sister and mom, in 2007, clearly wishing they were eating apricots.

Yesterday, a neighbor wrote on Facebook how sick she was of making apricot jam, and I thought about my mom. She’s now 85 and fading slowly away. In hospice care, she doesn’t open her eyes, she doesn’t speak, and now she no longer eats. [UPDATE: My mother passed away in January of 2014.] She won’t taste apricots or make jam this year.

I moved away to the east coast some years ago, saw apricots for sale occasionally at the grocery stores for exorbitant prices, and remembered free Utah apricots. Then we moved back to Utah in 2007 and occasionally got an apricot or two, and loved them.

But there are still apricots, brought to me by a dear friend, in a bag [the same friend who texted me today–Allison doesn’t forget]. 

I don’t have Judy, either. She won her first round with cancer, but it came back more angry for a second bout, and nearly three years ago [seven, now], Judy passed away.

We don’t have that tree anymore, either. We sold the house, and the tree, a few years ago.

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My mom, four years ago, briefly holding her youngest grandchild. She passed away in 2014.

Yesterday, I taught my 4-year-old [now 9-year-old] how to love apricots. After her fifth one I said, “We shouldn’t have any more. Too many will make you need to go to the bathroom a lot tomorrow.”

She nodded in agreement, but about ten minutes later came to me with another apricot for me to open and pit. “Just one more,” she promised. “The last one.”

I smiled and took one more as well.

Then ate about twenty-five more.

Today I’ve spent a lot of time in the bathroom.

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Judy and me, in 2007. No apricots in sight, but I’ll eat extra for her today, in 2016. And likely regret it again.

And I swear I’ve heard Judy laughing at me and saying, But they’re worth it, aren’t they?

[Today, I told my nine-year-old that the apricots were ready again, and she eagerly asked, “When can we go get them?” If you’ll need me tomorrow, I’ll be in the bathroom. I have to eat enough for not only myself, but my mom and Judy as well. Someone has to do it.]

“I don’t believe this!” Peto threw his arms in the air and clomped around the garden. “For moons I’ve been trying to understand the meaning of the peach pits, and here you tell me they’re only for growing more peaches? For crying out loud!” he exclaimed as he started for the road. “The pits are only for getting more peaches—”

Unless,” and once again Yung’s quiet calm voice cut through Peto’s complaining and pierced his heart, “unless the Creator wanted you to get something more out of them.” ~Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn

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