Memory is a funny thing, and add nostalgia to the mix, then it is really odd. Since soon after I got my little holiday house in France, I’ve planned to plant a fig tree in the front garden. (Just got to paint the wall it will go against first…)
Why? Well I like figs, but they’re generally available in shops – I think the real reason is a sense of nostalgia.
Perhaps the first time I realized that you could grow your own food was visiting my grandmother’s garden in Sydney. She had a magnificent vegetable patch that covered virtually all of the quarter-acre block, but I don’t think it had made any impression on me before I taste a fig – my first I suspect – that she’d just picked from the tree.
In my memory it isn’t a very large fig tree, which since I was probably about five at the time means it must have been pretty small indeed, and it was covered with bird-netting (that was probably grandfather, he was big on bird netting, even though with this garden, and a holiday place stocked with scores of fruit trees, they had far more than they could eat or give away).
But it tasted great – and whenever I eat a fig I flash back to that moment. (Possibly because figs were, in my youth anyway, seldom sold in shops in Australia, so I didn’t eat many.)
Then I was thinking about the tree to shade the patio I’m now installing out the back. It’ll probably be a cherry, since that seems to be an appropriately luxuriant option, and they seem to do well here – mostly almost ripe now.
But suddenly from nowhere popped into my head “I’d love a mulberry tree”. Actually, I’ve never seen one around here, and I suspect that the winters might be too cold, but I realized why that produced warm and fuzzy feelings in me was, when I thought about it, another early memory. I must have been about seven, on our first family farm holiday (which involved staying with a family and participating in farm life).
I was off with the farm kids, about my age. We were all on ponies (they must have given me a very quiet one), and we rode up to a mulberry tree and started picking them. Of course they were soon out of reach, so the other kids started standing on their saddles to reach higher. So did I – then the inevitable happened, the pony walked out from under me, and I ended up sprawled on the rotting mulberries underneath.
I don’t know why this is a good memory – I undoubtedly got into deep trouble for the state of my yellow T-shirt (still remember that – how odd!), since I was supposed to never get mucky (and I think generally didn’t as a child, for lack of opportunity).
But as a result of that memory – possibly because it was a rare occasion when I was mixing with other kids on more or less common ground (they were used to visitors and probably under strict instructions to treat the visitors’ kids like their mates) — I come over all warm and fuzzy at the thought of mulberry trees.