On Growing Up

A bowl of apples

When I was ten, I visited some friends in Australia. Now, Australia has some cool things–bizarre animals, gorgeous beaches, and strange politicians. But the thing that struck me the most was that our friends had fruit trees in their back yard. Whenever they wanted, they could go out back, pick a guava, and eat it.

As a ten-year-old, this struck me as the best thing ever. Food that just magically appears on the trees outside, more than you can even eat yourself. So much that you have to share it with your neighbors.

So when I returned to my home in Prince George, Canada, I stuffed an old orange juice container with soil from our vegetable garden. Then I buried a seed from an apple I bought at the grocery store into it, and waited.

Eventually the seed sprouted. I was delighted. I’d soon have my apples.

The faltering dream

It didn’t grow quickly, but after about six months, the seedling was six or eight inches tall. At that point, I decided that it had grown too big for the orange juice container, so I transplanted it outside to the middle of our front yard.

After that, the tree didn’t make much progress. You see, Prince George is in the center of British Columbia. It’s pretty cold up there. In those days, you could expect to see a week or two of sub -30 C (-25 F) weather each winter. What’s more, there wasn’t a lot of sunlight. We lived in the middle of a forest, and the taller trees blocked much of the light.

So my apple tree never really amounted to much. It grew to a foot and a half and just stopped. It never sprouted many leaves or branches, let alone apples. It just wasn’t a great environment for a fruit tree.

By the time I left the city when I was 18, I knew what a naïve dreamer I had been. There was a reason why you never saw apple trees in Prince George. And even if one could survive, it wouldn’t mature fast enough for me to enjoy its fruit.

Recognizing reality                

I realized then that I was a child with a dream when I planted that seed. But at 18, I was close to being an adult. I needed to see the world as it was, not how I wanted it to be. I left and never thought about that seed again.

Now I’m married with two kids, living five hundred miles away in Vancouver. As part of our summer vacation, we decided to drive up north to visit my brother and his family in Fort St. John. Along the way, we passed through Prince George. I hadn’t been there since 1991.

On a whim, we drove up the long winding road to see my old home.

It looked mostly the same. The house had been repainted. The garden was gone. The driveway was refinished.

And there, in the center of the lawn, was a large apple tree, its branches sagging under the weight of hundreds of apples.

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