We have leaves. It shouldn't be a surprise but it is. A few months ago, my very enthusiastic dad bought a new shear-like clipper tool and got carried away with my beloved apple tree. I was devastated. I tried my best to swallow the lump in my throat and blink away the tears of disappointment. He thinks the tree is getting too big for the tiny garden. He may be right, but to my mind, it was the wrong time of year and the wrong way to do it. I tried to joke about him turning the tree into a climbing frame for my 7 year old nephew but it hurt.
With the help of a double pollinator (a graft with two varieties) in a pot nearby, 'my' Bramley seedling produces the finest cooking apples in the world. The windfalls don't go to waste - my father turns them into the most beautiful apple jelly. So although it's 'my' tree - it's his too.
My mother loves to harvest the fully grown apples and produces crumbles, apple tarts and bags of stewed apples that are frozen and just when you think you'll die for the want of a sweet autumnal pudding long after the leaves and fruit have gone, she'll set one on the table. So I guess that makes it her tree too.
We have one child in the family - my brother's son. He has inherited his grandmother's tree-climbing gene and his aunt's love of baking too. In years to come, his memories may well include harvesting apples at granny and granda's. In his mind's eye, he'll almost certainly hold a view of our garden from the top of the brambly branches. It's his tree too then.
Today, I've noticed the bare branches have little green leaves in unlikely places, long, long after they should have been there. Small, new reminders that no matter how bad things seem, there's is hope. I needed to see these leaves. I needed the sign, not because I long for apple tart and windfall jelly but because my dad is sick. Every few weeks, I sit beside him in the hospital as a toxic cocktail drips into his vein.
He's a quiet man, the uncomplaining type, a teacher to his very core and a woodworker. He's spent his life pointing young people in the right direction, in school, in Boys' Brigade, in Bible Class, in a Government run project for young offenders. And now, unbeknown to him, when he over-enthusiastically clipped away at 'our' tree, he was setting a lesson in place for me. It's a resurrection thing and I'm glad for the lesson that no matter how broken and hopeless things seem, there is always hope. Maybe this year, we get by and cling to that hope. Next year there'll be fruit... and all will be well with the world again.
Until then... I need to remember what it was like last year.