Today, as I sit and eat an orange and juice runs down my arms and gets all over my face and I get orange bits between my teeth, my world is just that bit brighter.
You see, this is no ordinary orange. This is a very special orange – it represents something that I thought was a missed opportunity.
My Mum had an orange tree. It was her pride and joy and every year she delighted in eating the fruit, but more than that, she loved to share the fruit with her loved ones. I have vivid memories of eating oranges at her dining room table while she sat and watched, and smiled. I know as she lovingly watered it, she thought of the fruit that would come and the happiness it would bring.
When Mum died in July 2014, the oranges were on her tree as they were every year. I had not had an orange from her tree that year, she had been too ill and we had been in the whirlwind of her rapid decline in health and sudden death. Then there was the funeral to plan and the day of the funeral to get through.
My brother Cullen had the forethought to pick a basket of oranges from her tree and take them to her funeral and asked her friends and family that were present, to take an orange and to enjoy it and think of Mum.
I thought it was a wonderful idea and I took an orange, but I could not bring myself to eat it. It went rotten in my fruit bowl and it matched the gloom that descended upon me.
Last year my brothers and I were still in the throes of sorting Mum’s house out and getting it ready for sale and I went on my overseas trip following my ancestry, thanks to Mum.
The oranges didn’t really enter my thoughts too much, but as I think about it now, the fact that the tree was not cared for after Mum died, meant that it got diseased and didn’t bear fruit last year. Cullen gave it a big prune and laid the slate for it to fruit this year. Same with the peach tree.
Then as fate may have it, I decided to buy my brothers out of Mum’s house and to keep it as an investment property so that I could keep the house that meant so much to me, in my life. It was a house full of memories – I had moved there with Mum when I was 17 and turned into an adult there (even having a cracking 18th birthday party there and then a rerun three weeks later). My Mum had sold the house to my Nana and Grandad in their ailing years and moved next door and then bought it back when they moved into nursing homes. So not only was it full of memories of my Mum, also of my grandparents who died in 2007. It was just too important to me and the thought of not knowing who was in it, or whether it was being looked after, was too much for me to cope with and so it became clear that I needed to keep it. Which I did. I then prepared it to rent out, rather than for sale and was overjoyed with the final result.
Now that I am another year down the track and a fair bit stronger, the thought of sitting down and enjoying Mum’s oranges is a thought that brings me joy. The fact that I kept the house, and found a wonderful tenant, means that now, every year, we are able to enjoy Mum’s oranges. So, this is the first one of Mum’s oranges I have eaten since before she even got sick. This is something I thought I gave up the opportunity to do when I didn’t eat the one I took from her funeral. That makes me very happy.
I have now finished it – devoured it in minutes and it was quite possibly the sweetest fruit I have ever eaten in my life. I thought of Mum with every bite and felt her watching and smiling and saying “that’s my Girl”.
Love you Mum and thank you for all the years of looking after the orange tree so that we can enjoy the fruit for years to come. The decision to keep Mum’s house was a great one, for even more reasons than I first thought.
I know she lead me to make the decision to keep it, and I know that she had a hand in Ruth being the tenant. There are just too many co-incidences for her not to have.
I am grateful that she taught me how to trust my instinct and the Universe.