In Japan I was pleased to see a familiar tree, a loquat tree just like the one in my yard in the U.S. While gazing at the familiar tree during my visit to Japan, my mind wandered off to a story I once wrote about my grandson and his first encounter with the lovely, white blossoms on my tree at home. I’ll share the story below.The loquat tree is green all year with large, dark green foliage. Every fall the tree produces the most lovely white, fragrant blossoms and by winter the tree faithfully produces small orange-colored fruits with a large pit inside. In my area, the fruits often get struck by sub-freezing cold snaps before they can fully ripen. However, my favorite feature of the loquat tree is the blooming season with the fragrant clusters of white flowers, the flowers that captured the attention of little Wendell….
“The Popcorn Tree”
Little Wendell stood motionless under the loquat tree, staring intently upward at the large round clusters of white buds scattered generously throughout the branches. Grandma saw him walk over to inquire of the pretty tree, or maybe he was following his nose to locate the source of the sweet, pleasant aroma emanating from the few buds already in bloom. Regardless, Wendell’s curiosity was now rewarded with something that grabbed all of his 3-year-old attention.
For what seemed like several minutes, Grandma watched Wendell still as a statuelooking up into the tree, lost in his little world of curiosity. But Grandma also knew that there were already a few industrious honeybees buzzing around the loquat tree now that some buds were beginning to bloom, and she didn’t want Wendell to get too curious about those! While walking toward the tree intent on luring Wendell away, Grandma calmly called out to him, “Wendell, what are you looking at?”
Wendell paused a couple of seconds, and then replied in an excited voice, “Look, Grandma! A popcorn tree!”
A popcorn tree! Sure enough, the round white buds clustered together all over the loquat tree resembled the white puffed popcorn snack Wendell so enjoyed. For a moment Grandma forgot the impending honeybee danger and stood there with Wendell soaking up the delightful dream of a popcorn tree born of a carefree childhood imagination. Grandma bent over and picked Wendell up in her arms and held him close as they enjoyed the precious moment together underneath Wendell’s popcorn tree.
Soon, however, those industrious honeybees began their circular buzzing all too close to Grandma and Wendell. Grandma was reluctant to enter back into the world of reality, but she knew she must assume the lackluster role of adult responsibility, move Wendell away from bees’ harm, instruct him that bees can hurt, and teach him that this was not a popcorn tree lest he innocently reach out and pick a few buds for a snack. Wendell took the instruction in his usual silent, accepting way, still at that wonderful age that conveys complete trust in Grandma.
Grandma and Wendell walked away from the tree together, Wendell all the smarter, content that his popcorn was merely strange round white buds for what purpose he did not yet understand, and trying to understand that they had to leave because honeybees could hurt you somehow. Grandma walked silently contemplating the long journey that lie ahead for 3-year-old Wendell as he grows up and, inevitably, replaces innocent fairy-tale dreams of carefree childhood with matter-of-fact elements of adulthood. Not a bad thing, just different. Grandma embraced Wendell with a big Grandma-style hug, and trying to keep matters simple, told him they would visit the tree again another day; soon, she promised. Wendell smiled, said “Ok, Grandma,” and took off to the sandbox.