Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Some people would see the stone fruit in the stores during late Spring and early Summer, and think "Christmas". Not her. She would see stone fruit, and her mind would launch into full-blown reverie.
The sight of apricots, especially, would do it.
She would suddenly be a child again, no more than 8 years old. She would be sitting in the tree in the old back yard, protected from the Sun's hottest rays by the shade of leaves and fruit bulging from every limb. Her tiny bottom would balance on a branch; her bare feet feeling the roughness and smoothness of the branch's bark, as she nestled in like a hungry caterpillar.
White chooks would cackle in the long soft grass below, searching for grubs in the lush green undergrowth, and scratching feverishly when they spied something tasty. Their red combs and wattles wobbled as they worked. Her brothers, playing loudly in the home-made pool her father had built with bricks and connected to a drain so it could be emptied out when not in use, were oblivious to her up there in the tree.
A contented little soul, she would pick an apricot and handle it as she had been taught by those brothers; and by her sisters too, who were inside playing dress-ups with each other's clothing. This is the way she treated the apricots ...
Firstly, if it was the right colour, she would caress a soft, slightly furry fruit. Gently, then, squeezing it to check it's ripeness. And, then, only if it passed her test, she would pull ever so slightly.
The trick was to only pick the fruit, if it was ready to let go of it's branch. Never force it. Never pull like you have a right to it. It must be ready.
If the apricot fell into her hand upon this almost charismatic persuasion, she would bring it down toward her lap into both hands. Her small thumbs would both fit into the crease where, until a moment before, it was connected to it's sole life-source. And again, gently, she would pry the apricot in half.
The seed would absent-mindedly fall to the ground, whereupon chickens would devour anything still attached to it's seam.
Two halves in hand, she would check for little grubs inside, and flick them effortlessly and expertly from the flesh. They had had enough of her feast.
The chooks would race for the flying grubs, sighting their prey in the air.
She would lift the soft fruit up to her nose, and breathe in deeply. The scent of the apricot would fill her entire body; there was nothing like a warm, juicy, freshly-picked apricot on a Summer's day.
A small bite into the first half, and the juice would fill her mouth with it's sweetness, and with that slight bitterness that is reminiscent of it's former life on the tree. It's flesh could not be replicated anywhere in any other fruit. The apricot was unique. She would savour each small bite, enjoying the splendour and delight in every one. When finished, she would lie her head backwards to rest on her tree-branch, and look up into the sky.
The blue was cornflower blue. The clouds, puffy white and gossamer, would migrate across the sky. Who needs heaven, when you have an apricot tree all to yourself?
And then another, and another, and another. Each apricot treated with reverence and love. Each one, a gift from the Universe and a joy to behold.
And so it was, each Spring and Summer. She would dream of planting an apricot tree in her garden. Though, the balancing act might be much harder now, the pleasure would still be hers.