Oranges fall from the tree, speckling the dry, parched ground with colour. One strong arm shakes the branches while 6 of us scurry to collect the fallen balls of juice. It’s a yearly tradition going back far longer than I can remember. I hold open the bag and the fruit is dropped in.
Children full of energy, giggles and cheeky fun. They play catch and their aim misses the target. They clamber over the speckled branches. Reaching ever higher to claim the biggest, juiciest burst of orange as a prize.
The eldest and youngest work together. With a slower pace and more deliberate movement, they work as a team. The great-grandmother, the one who has shaken the orange tree for more than half a century, and the boy just learning how to walk, his first time to pick the fruit. Over 8 decades divide them in age, but time is irrelevant today. The age-worn hand joining with the smooth-skinned one, helping with the task too big.
I forget to capture the moment in pixels. Instead capturing it in memory.
The words flow and memories rekindled. We remember the grandfather who taught me, as a child, to peel an orange on the fence post. We remember the strawberry patch which is now but a memory under the tree. The roses and the strength of the man who tended them. The shining new fence under the orange tree reminds us of time moving on. The children grow and bring children of their own to visit the farm and collect the oranges.
We sit beside the tree, drink tea and eat pumpkin scones. The scones which have been served every time I’ve visited. My grandmother’s trademark. The cups which draw yet more memories. We talk.
She tells of the art display coming up, shows me the paintings she laboured over. She shares her plans to create and music she is currently learning/revisiting on the piano. We talk of how she learnt to drive over 60 years ago. How her birthday today ushers in a new year – new seasons, new crops, new wheat to harvest, peanuts to plant, friends to visit and family to surround.
“I didn’t think I’d see this birthday.” she says. I stop short, understanding the meaning of the words. ”But now I’m feeling much better. It’s so good to see you and the children again.”
I find that, maybe with naivity, I seem to expect that life will continue as it is. Family will always be there, sharing the journey of life with us. It seems uncomprehendable that one day my grandmother won’t be collecting oranges on the farm she has lived all her life.
The wheat glistens gold in the sunshine, we walk to the paddock and observe the harvest which will soon begin.
She looks at me and works to get my full attention. She speaks with authority, a tone which leaves not doubt.
“When you get to my age, you learn what is really important.”
We walk back to the seats. Sit and watch the children with their dad and camera and field of glistening gold.
“It’s family who are always important.”
This lady who I admire. I have so much more to learn from her. She tells it straight and hits the heart.
I run around after things. Strive for ‘perfection’. Keep busy, busy, busy. Think this is living a full life. When it’s really the family that matters. The relationships which need to be tended more than the wheat. The pieces of lives lived together need picking up more than the oranges.
My challenge for the week, issued from my grandmother, is to build the relationships in my life. To remember that people, family, friends are most important.
Live your Love