I sliced the navel off the bottom and a wider slice off the fleshy skin at the top, scored the peel in about five places, then peeled them back to the fruit. In those seven seconds of manipulation, what sent my thoughts off to Mother accepting mouth bite portions of segments until she had had maybe two whole ones and said “Enough!”? Her appetite was birdlike in the beginning, but now it was miniscule.

I was sitting where she usually had sat, finishing dinner; Otto was sitting across, backlit by the late day sun streaming in, passing through the spruce branches of the tree our Dad had planted thirty two years before. Bruce the Spruce, we called it. The other trees had names as well, like David, the pine tree. Now where did they get names like that? At least, Bruce rhymed. There might have been a story about tiny David surviving under a Goliath-like tree out front of the property. Dad carried the tiny pine tree out to the back in one hand, dug a hole for it and it grew at least a foot every year until it was thirty fee tall, sporting lusty looking pine flowers that were pinkish and virile in the spring and became cones in the fall.

Mother wanted the yard to be separated from prying eyes in the lane. Her solution was to plant a forest in the twenty feet forward from the lane to the house. Still standing is a Douglas fir, a yellow cedar, a mountain ash that is easily one hundred feet high and has luscious, bird-attracting red berries in the fall. There are two rhododendrons that I have rescued from the gloom and pruned hard in August last summer, both of which are coming back gang-busters. I can hardly wait to see their blooms.

David, the Ponderosa pine, leaned perilously towards the garage. Each year, we lopped off some of the top in fear that snow load would damage the garage roof. Each year, it arched closer, more perilously, causing another amputation at the top. When the invasive ivy began sucking life out of it and from the pole for the laundry line, the laundry line crashed during a storm. Without it’s support, David uprooted, half in, half out, still alive with the south side roots entrenched; dying on its north side where the roots were exposed.

It was too dangerous. We had to have David removed, chopped up into firewood; the remainder was chipped in a machine brought to the back lane. That is what gave the rhodos the extra light and space to recover and survive.

Right up against the fence there is mock orange, a profusion of forsythia, a lilac tree with both white and purple blooms, a yellow climbing rose with inch long thorns along its stem, a golden flowered laburnum and ivy.

I don’t think any consideration was given to how big the major trees would become, given ten, even twenty years of growth. Plunk in the middle of this grove, there was a cluster birch, magnificent in the spring as its leaves unfurled a bright new green. In the early autumn, the leaves turned many colours of cadmium yellow that turned and twisted in the wind, then coated the ground with gold when the tree shed its summer garment. Three years ago, it was attacked by a birch beetle. There was no saving for it, the arborist informed us, and it had to go.
Mom loved her very own grove. A grove that she and Dad had planted. She watched from day to day as she sat eating breakfast, lunch, tea breaks and dinner. Now I was sitting in her spot, enjoying the juicy sweet orange that was no longer for sharing.

I reflected on what would happen to this house. I knew we had to sell and I am packing up in anticipation.

Every house I had lived in had been torn down to make way for giant modern packing crates. You could put your hand on the vinyl siding and feel the exterior wall give way into the almost exposed fiberglass insulation.
Perhaps every generation felt that the new houses were not solid, as technology allowed lighter and lighter construction while providing equivalent or better shelter from the elements. I couldn’t help but think that was not so.

I watched housing construction sites from time to time and saw walls made of chip board and studs with so many knots in them they looked like Swiss cheese. A friend had a one bedroom basement suite in one of the new houses that had no land around it, no back yards to play in, new grass sodding between the houses that failed to establish because there was insufficient light in the narrow gap between that house and the next. The basement suites had windows occupied a space between six feet and seven feet up, allowing a meager light of day on the back wall and none at all on the side walls where the next house crowded in. He stayed two months then, despite the cost of moving again, found a ground floor apartment elsewhere in the community with lots of light. He had felt he was living in a tomb.

Otto had a developer friend come with his model of houses he planned to build just four blocks from here. Where two lovely ranchers with their beautiful landscaping had stood, three houses would be built with no space between them at all. Row houses, if you ask me, but he had some fancy name for it that was meant to attract aging empty nesters from the nearby posh district of town who didn’t want to live outside of their family area. Behind these three units, a large five car garage was to be built with two six hundred square feet apartments above. His friend was encouraging Otto to buy this home of ours and develop it as he had. There was no doubt, with rapid transit being built as they spoke, and a station going up just at the corner, all of this area would become high density development.

It’s a sad thing. Mom and Dad’s previous house had been built in 1913 by a doctor, pioneer to this city. It should have been kept as a heritage house. It had magnificent timbers of west coast Douglas fir. Victorian in style, the structure was solid ( ’twas a nightmare for electricians who came to upgrade the whole electrical system in 1956 as Mom and Dad did their first renovations to the house). There was a broad porch around the front and the east side. In the main entrance halls and the dining room the wainscoting was in solid oak; the stairs, too, were beautiful oak with a banister a child could safely slide down, ending in a lovely eight by eight solid newel post. At the mezzanine landing to the upper floor, there was a giant stain glass window with geometric patterns in in rippled clear glass and green. All the floors were solid hardwood of the best quality. No laminate here; not even veneer and plywood. It was beautiful wood, inlaid around the edges, and all was solid wood through and through.

The house sat on three lots, cresting a hill that surveyed the entire city. When my parents sold the house, the new owner hardly took a breath before he sold the third lot. A new house went up and the solid porch on the east side was taken down to make room for it. Lizbet was curious about what was being done with the house and she went to visit (nervy, she was) . The new owner complained that the cost of renovations was so high he could build a brand new house on the spot for a fraction of the cost. The new, characterless home that went up kept the stain glass feature, but all the rest was simply demolished, and the house stood crowded beside by the newly constructed neighbour’s abode.

Now in this day and age, all that good wood would be recuperated and re-used for repairing heritage flooring or for features in heritage renovations. Then, who knows. Most of it was simply dumped. For a long time, I couldn’t bear to drive by that address so I picked different routes to avoid it.

Ah, those flying thoughts. You never know where they will take you. I started talking about an orange, thinking about how we sat over dinner, communing with something as simple and wholesome as orange segments; then about how much pleasure Mom had planting and then living with her own private forest. Now my orange was gone and I packed up the food and piled the dishes for Otto to do between periods on the Stanley Cup playoff hockey game.

That’s his chore.


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