When my marriage ended, I bought a Meyer lemon tree for my apartment. I knew it would be strange to live alone again. Having something to take care of would be a good way of channeling the extra time and energy. The vision of my new routine was crystal clear. I would pick the lemons and freeze slices to put in my water. When family and friends came to visit, I could serve them freshly-squeezed lemonade.
The tree was delivered from a nursery in Mineola, Texas. Its branches were so narrow and flimsy. How could it support the weight of a lemon? Call it naiveté or lazy researching skills, I didn’t realize Meyer lemon tress don’t start bearing fruit until they are three to seven years old.
I felt a sense of bitterness towards this fruitless tree. My impulsive nature had struck again. Dreams of lemonade-quenched afternoons on the patio were dashed.
And then came the pandemic. There were no afternoons with friends to be had, drinking lemonade or otherwise. Instead, my small outdoor space became a refuge of sorts. A brief reprieve from the computer screen and tight living/working quarters. I sat outside while drinking coffee or listening to music or journaling.
Because I’d done so little reading about lemon trees before ordering mine, I didn’t know that they produce the loveliest white flowers. Eventually, the blooms turn into lemons. But I started to forget about the fruit altogether. I just loved seeing new purple buds appear and watching as they unraveled, revealing a golden center. The scent is heavenly, reminiscent of a honeysuckle and deserving of being bottled into a perfume.
A year passed, and the tree came with me to my next home. It’s more spacious here. Plenty of room to breathe. But I still find myself drawn to the patio. Sitting beside the little lemon tree. New branches and leaves are sprouting up from the base. I think about how different my own life is now. The unexpected opportunities opening like flower buds. Cultivation.
Maybe someday in the future, I’ll buy a house again. Plant my tree in the backyard and pick ripe lemons from it. Sip lemonade from a mason jar and reflect on the strangeness of this season that once was. But I’m not in a rush.
Because there’s another thing I learned about lemon trees: they can live up to 50 years. We have time.