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The lemon tree

Rick Ryckeley's picture

What can I say about another year gone by that hasn’t already been said? I could write about how our 401k’s have now all been turned into 201k’s. Or how every time someone in Europe sneezes, our stock market drops to yet another new yearly low.

Or how because those folks in Washington keep acting like children and can’t agree on how to run things, homes are now worth about half what they were at the beginning of this year.

I could write about all that stuff. But then again, it wouldn’t make for a very happy column, now would it?

Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street wasn’t easy sometimes. When things weren’t going right, Dad use to tell us we couldn’t always control what happened to us, only how we reacted to it. He said, “When you meet Adversity and life gives you lemons, simply make lemonade.”

The wisdom of such a saying was beyond the grasp of an 8-year-old who had just gotten beaten again by Down the Street Bully Brad. Face bloodied, shirt torn, and sore from head to foot, I walked through our front door. I hadn’t met that guy, Adversity, Dad had talked about, but I sure did meet Bradley McAllister’s fists.

To be honest, I never really understood what he meant by those words. That is until last weekend when he came up for a visit. He brought with him Christmas presents for all us kids and all the grandchildren. He also brought something else that had been hidden in plain sight.

The understanding of what he really meant so long ago.

About six years ago, Dad and my stepmother had just moved into their new home. She joked one afternoon that she wished he would plant a lemon tree so they could enjoy fresh lemonade on the back porch. Unbeknownst to her, the very next day he planted a Myers lemon tree at the far back left corner of the lot.

At the beginning, he took great care tilling the soil, digging a large hole for future root growth, and adding amendments to ensure proper nutriments, giving the tree all it needed for a long and healthy life.

For you see, Dad knew the importance of caring for the young sapling. It was a labor of love.

Each year he’d worked additional nutriments into the soil around the thorny tree. Yet each year it stood bare of any fruit, despite his best efforts.

Through the next six years, the lemon tree weathered many storms, but Dad never gave up hope – never gave up on the little tree. During the harshness of the summers, the tree nearly didn’t survive. And if left on its own, it surely would have perished in the rare snow two winters past.

He took great care of the tree until about a year ago. Then suddenly the little tree at the far left corner of the lot went all but forgotten. Something else more important demanded all of his attention and loving care.

Dad walked into our home last week and brought bags of presents for his children and grandchildren. He walked into our home alone.

For you see, like so many, the last 12 months have been hard, for we’ve suffered a great loss. Missing this Christmas was our stepmom of 25 years.

After handing out the presents, Dad walked slowly back out to the car to retrieve one more. It seems he’s moving much slower this Christmas than last.

He said it was something special he had brought for the entire family to enjoy. Something we all could share. He came back and set down on the counter a brown paper grocery bag.

Inside were the largest lemons I’d ever seen.

Everything you try in the New Year may not work out like you plan. There could be days, weeks or even months that you seem aren’t very productive.

Just keep working and doing what you know to be right. One day you’ll be amazed at all the fruit your good works will bear. Not just for you, but also for your family.

Looking forward into the New Year, you don’t know how the economy will fare, who’ll win the election, or even what the price of gas will be this time next year. But there is one thing you can depend on.

The good Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise, all the kids from Flamingo Street and I will be right here for the next 52 weeks.

Hopefully, we can add some humor to your Friday read as we help you remember a simpler time. Along the way, I’ll write a few stories about The Wife, The Boy, and life’s little truths and hold them up for all to read.

We’ll share some laughs and a few tears, and maybe they’ll make you look at the world around you just a little differently.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]

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