For some time, I have been thinking about writing a post about a small lemon tree I purchased during the summer of 2013. My plan was to call the article “A Tale of Endurance.”
Then on Thursday, Sreejit posted his Dungeon Prompt for the week. He asked us to address:
How do you measure up to your eight-year-old-self’s plans for the future? We all had childhood dreams, or fantasies. How did you imagine the world as a kid? When you were eight years old, what did you plan on being when you grew up? What would that version of yourself think about who you are now?
Responding to this prompt posed a problem as I have almost no memories of my childhood. My mind went blank when I thought of my eight-year-old self. As I reflected on my childhood as a whole, it occurred to me that that my growing up years could also be seen as “A Tale of Endurance.” I wondered if I had that attitude about life by the time I was eight.
I decided to include both endurance tales in one post!
A Tale of Endurance #1
What did my eight-year-old dream of? I have no idea. My only clue is that I know my primary past-time during my childhood was reading. I do remember loving the Bobbsey Twin series. I think those were books an eight-year-old might read. I have no doubt that when I immersed myself in my books I was transported to other lands. It is likely that most of my childhood dreams came from the books I read.
Since I couldn’t answer the prompt by talking about my dreams, I decided to see if I could learn more about my eight-year-old self. I searched for some pictures and found two. I believe I was eight in the first one and nine in the second.
I grew up as an army brat. I was born at Sandia Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico and lived there for the first years of my life. At some point during the Korean War my father went to Korea and my mother, brother and I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, the city where my mother’s family lived.
I thought I had attended three different schools in the third grade but as I looked through old belongings yesterday, I discovered I had gone to two schools during the second grade and two in the third. When my father returned from Korea, we moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina; I would have been seven at that time. After two quarters of school in Fayetteville, we moved to Ft. Bragg, which is also in North Carolina. I finished the second grade there. I attended third grade at Ft. Brag for half a year and then moved to Pirmasens, Germany for the last half of third grade.
I can imagine the difficulty that switching schools so often would cause a child who was a strong introvert. In an army brat’s life, friendships were usually short; either we moved, or our friends did. I have no memory of any childhood friend, other than the cousins we visited on vacations.
I remember my mother saying that my pattern was to have one friend and then if they moved on to another best friend I would be devastated. I can imagine myself developing a “why bother” attitude when it came to friendship.
Yesterday, I also looked through all my elementary school report cards. I probably had read them sometime in the past, but it would have been decades ago. I paid particular attention to the report cards from the years I was eight and nine.
At that time, my teachers described me as earnest, pleasant, a hard worker, cooperative, and a good student who was creative, read well, learned quickly and had a wholesome attitude. In the second half of second grade and the first half of third grade, I received “Excellent” and “Good” for grades. When we moved to Germany and they used A, B, C, etc. as the grading system, I received A’s and B’s. The area where I consistently received the lowest marks and negative comments were in Writing. One teacher wrote “Carol (my name at that time) writes large enough but her letters are poorly formed.” Those comments continued throughout my elementary school years. I have no memory of my writing being an issue, although I’m not surprised considering how poorly I write now!
After writing positive comments on my report card, one teacher added- “I’m afraid she doesn’t receive much challenge.” I wonder what she meant?
Other comments that interested me were:
“She is slow to express herself.” That seemed reasonable for an introvert.
“Carol has improved some in writing but seems tense and not able to relax when writing and other times also. Have you noticed this?” My mother, who was also a teacher, responded “I have never noticed any tension in her writing at home but then she has an eraser at home (which she uses far too often) and I think her not having one at school may cause the tension. I’m not sure. She is a sensitive child and may be trying too hard to succeed in a subject she knows she’s having trouble with.”
I don’t know how soon my life began to feel like a tale of endurance. As I aged, I became more and more unhappy at home. At one point, I counted off the days until I could leave for college. I hated moving so often and wanted to create a life where I could stay put. Hmmmm. I wonder if that was a dream when I was eight. If so, it was one I created as I have lived in the same house in Seattle since 1973!
I have loved getting some insight into my eight-year-old self. Thank you Sreejit for offering this assignment and thereby prompting my exploration.
A Tale of Endurance #2
In the summer of 2013, I bought a small lemon tree. There were several lemons on it when I purchased the tree and I had visions of all of the lemons that were to come. The nursery staff told me to bring the tree into the house before the temperatures dropped, so as winter neared I put it indoors. One by one, the beautiful lemons turned black and fell off. Then most of the leaves fell off. Soon there was nothing left but the trunk (if you can call something that small a trunk) and a few leaves.
Spring came and nothing happened. The same few leaves stayed on, but there were no new ones and there were no buds. I took the plant to a nursery to see if it was possible to save it. They instructed me to use a particular kind of fertilizer. Months later there was still no new growth. It wasn’t until late August that a few flower buds formed. The plant was still alive but it seemed too late in the season for any fruit that formed to grow to maturity.
As it started to get cold, I once again brought the tree into the house. And again, the few small lemons that were on the tree turned black and fell off. This time the rest of the leaves fell off as well. I decided to leave the tree in the house even though it was just a stalk.
Sometime in late winter, I concluded that the situation was hopeless and put the tree outside on the balcony. I would compost it in the springtime. However, when springtime came and I picked up the container to take it to the compost heap, I noticed there were many tiny leave buds!
This tree seemed determined to live. Over the next weeks, the leaves grew, flower buds formed and then blossomed!
After a difficult childhood, my life blossomed and has been filled with friends, adventure and learning. It is interesting for me to see that many of the characteristics that my teachers pointed out on my eight-year-old report cards are characteristics that I am known for now. I think my eight-year-old would like the adult I have become.
It appears that this year the lemon tree is moving forward on its journey towards health. Perhaps in time it will even bear fruit that will become ripe!
I appreciate all the ways, past and present, that I am learning the value of endurance.