Saturday, September 13, 2008

Plums, Memory & Tact

I don’t want to get all Proustian here (read: go on for-evuh), but I was standing under our plum tree yesterday, and the dusty, sweet scent of the ripening plums came to my nose, and with it, the memory of my boy, who just turned nine, as a baby, and our neighbors coming by.It had been a cool summer. We didn’t know it then, but the plums were ripening later than usual; one afternoon, when my boy was only a few days old, there was a knock at the back door. I opened it to find our elderly next-door neighbors (not my crazy neighbor, who is also elderly) smiling at me. We’d never really been properly introduced, so we shook hands, said hello, and he asked if we’d bought a cat or had a baby, because they'd heard an awful lot of mewling.

I stared at him for a moment. I am not a tactful woman. I blurt out all sorts of awkward, in an excruciatingly blundering manner, and that's when I'm trying to be nice. It just somehow... comes out all wrong. And I was impressed with his level of tactlessness. My thought bubble said: “Are you naturally that tactless, or does it take a lot of practice?” In my out loud voice (a moment of tact! Almost a decade ago!), I said that we’d had a baby. He said “Oh.” We blinked at one another politely for another moment, and then he asked if they could pick plums. I said yes, and he and his wife contentedly plucked the fruit from the tree for a little while.

Each year I go out to pick our plums, and stand under the tree as it hangs heavy and fragrant with fruit, I am reminded of the increasing distance from my son's babyhood. And each year I think: cat, or... baby? Heh.


cook eat FRET said...

one of my cats totally sounds like a baby. it's freaky.

i want a plum tree.

Meg said...

You won't want one in about a week, when you have to pick up the hornet-swarmed, pulpy messes strewn all over the back yard.
But... I still love having one. There's nothing like walking out back, picking one, and eating it on the spot.