The Peach Tree

On a warm April day, I sit across a travel agent trying to convince him that I need to be on the next flight to Adelaide. We have had this argument several times, him telling me that I am too late, it is the holiday season and all flights are booked and me insisting that he could fit me in somewhere. How exactly I want him to do this I do not know but I sit there doggedly hoping to get a ticket. He glances at my passport and his eyes hover at the “Place of birth” field. His face softens a bit as he tells me he is from the same place himself.

“You still have family there?”, he asks as skims through the other pages of my passport. “Not really”, I mumble and by way of conversation add “My grandfather was the Principal of the Local boys’ school”. I have his attention now, he leans over and asks me almost urgently “What year? What was his name?”. When I reply, his face changes. “You are his grand-daughter?”, he asks me, his voice barely a whisper.”Do you know he turned my life around, many years ago? He could have given up on me like everyone else did but he persisted. He believed in me when I had no belief in myself, he taught me some of life’s most dignified lessons ” His voice falters and I see reverence in his eyes. I have heard many such tales about my grandfather but I have always treated them as tales…tales and anecdotes in a time now forgotten. I hardly have any memories of my grandfather and his personality has been something I have created over the years from others’ recollections and incidents. Today however as I see this middle aged man with moist eyes, I realize that some people and their deeds are for all times and that some people will be with you for no matter what, even if you never get to meet them.
Six years later on a typically cold Adelaide winter day, I stand in my garden at dusk. The air is redolent with the scent of gum trees and the grass blades crackle beneath my feet. I can hear the cicadas whirring and sound of a lone car on the nearby main road occasionally disrupting the placid stupor that seems to have settled all around me. I wander around the garden, ruminating, contemplating but mostly trying to blend in with the peaceful ambience.

There is always something to explore, there is always a feast for the senses, a brave rose bud battling winter’s first frost, a sprig of jasmine in full blossom defying nature’s time table, a sagacious bird building her nest in the gnarled branches of the lemon tree, a spider working on his gossamer web across the lattices and a defiant shower of lavender that stands up to the cold gale in resplendent colours. It is then that I notice the peach tree standing in the centre of my garden in its full glory. It has nearly no leaves to speak of, every branch is laden with fruit, glorious fruit with a vivid red-golden hue. Like drawn by an invisible force, I walk upto the tree and reach out to touch its bounty. I pluck a juicy red peach and bite into it…the tart sweetness seems to seep into me and seems to have a soothing effect in that already tranquil environment. There is something about the moment that seems to be full of deja vu…I have been through this before, this food for the soul exercise that I have just indulged in has crossed my paths earlier somewhere .

It is then that it strikes me, I have no idea who planted this garden and this peach tree. I never will know whose hands nurtured this piece of land and left me this legacy. Someone years ago planted a seed and moved on, someone sprinkled some goodness around many,many winters ago and today in the grand eternal scheme of things, I have been allowed to claim some of those gifts, some of that altruism as my own.

Goodness does not have a shelf life- this much I now know!

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