The boy and his pecan tree, separate them and they are one. They were mighty, messy and rewarding. But I was just a boy peeking through its depth. My shadows fell long across Golf Avenue. The hot hill country air had swept in. Smelled like rain and freshly cut golf course grass. The air carried the fine dirt that he could see in the distance forming slowly over the hills. The elderly lady inside the house was distantly related. So close as she was a great grandmother. But so far away in regard to the young mind and its inability to grasp time. Just a boy living every day, not understanding quite yet the timeline in which we all have a part. His mother was always so excited. She had such memories here. But this trip the mood seemed stuck in a perpetual state of aging and depression. There was very little smiling. Lots of holding hands and praying interjected with bitter or sweetly defiant words.
During the summers, we played under the Pecans. Its sticky mess would rain down like fine mist. The pecans were savory and smelled of dark vegetation and inside the piano would play. The same piece of music always sat at attention on it. The head of the household was tall and imposing. She often had a stern look, but could quickly be coaxed into a laugh. She would sit and play for us. Church hymns as fine you would hear during service. Her feet would stomp a deliberate motion against the pedals and as voice quivered and quaked ever so gently. She was singing to us, but mostly to the Lord.
She would open the kitchen cabinets up to reveal pastel colored dishes and red reflective glasses with tiny chips in the painted on veneer. We would sip on Dr. Pepper which seemed to be her one love in life outside of Jesus.
We would get in some alien shaped car for quick rides to the grocery or post office. It was a relic of a car, but seemed reliable and tame. It moved as if it weighed as much as an elephant. She was a solid and musty smelling beast stripped of all modern convenience. But it fit right in on this street that seemed stuck in a time that happened long before I was born.
One summer she was reading on the back porch as I collected pecans and little decorative rocks. I asked what she was reading. With a twinkle in her eye she showed me a small book of romantic poets. She read me one. It was about how the world around us was all connected in some way or the other. I remembered the lesson because the poem talked about how flowers were just as important as sheep. The idea of something existing for something else was intriguing to me. It ended with the passage, “An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.” It would be years until I would see that poem again. She had attempted to teach me a lesson through Keats.
In the evening fireflies were everywhere and we would play thieves to the Honeysuckle hanging on the back fence. Acting as if every tiny drop we extracted was a fine delicatessen. Then later when everyone was asleep, the house became something different. The wind made the Pecan giants groan and then they would pelt the roof with pecans one by one in synchronistic rhythm. The boards in the house popped and creaked. But nothing that scared you. It is was just as if the house lived and breathe like the rest of this place. Summer visits were about stepping back in time. They were about reconnecting with a past while taking a leap into the future. Almost as if we were holding onto something that was desperately trying to let go.
On this particular summer visit though, the old lady in the house was very upset. She had just found out that her days of sitting in the Texas wind and watching golf carts careen down the street in search of errant golf balls had to come to an eventual end. She had to say goodbye to the Pecan trees. She had to say goodbye to Dr. Pepper and riding in her alien car with a sunhat on. She had to say goodbye to independence. We don’t always take bad and horribly depressing news well. She certainly had no trouble expressing her displeasure and given the circumstances, that seemed well within her right. I was sad for her too. But mostly I just hoped wherever she moved next would still have Pecan Trees and Dr. Pepper. But I knew she wouldn’t. On down the street the giant gutter called for me to play. Maybe given time, when I returned, everyone would be in a lot better mood for the drive home. Or maybe I would be sitting next to a sad and angry old lady.
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.