Justin was a climber. By one and a
half, he had discovered the purple plum tree in the
backyard, and its friendly branches became his favorite
At first he would climb just a few
feet and make himself comfortable in the curve where the
trunk met the branches. Soon he was building himself a
small fort and dragging his toy tractors and trucks up
to their new garage.
One day when he was two, Justin
was playing in the tree as usual. I turned my back to
prune the rosebush, and he disappeared.
"Justin, where are you?" I
His tiny voice called back, "Up
here, Mommy, picking all the plums for
When Justin was three, I became
pregnant. My husband and I explained to him that we were
going to have another baby as a playmate for
He was very excited, kissed my
tummy and said, "Hello, baby, I'm your big brother,
From the beginning he was sure he
was going to have a little sister, and every day he'd
beg to know if she was ready to play yet. When I
explained that the baby wasn't arriving until the end of
June, he seemed confused.
One day he asked, "When is June,
I realized I needed a better
explanation; how could a three-year-old know what "June"
meant? Just then, as Justin climbed into the low
branches of the plum tree, he gave me the answer I was
looking for . . . his special tree.
"Justin, the baby is going to be
born when the plums are ripe. You can keep me posted
when that will be, okay?" I wasn't completely sure if I
was on target, but the gardener in me was confident I'd
be close enough.
Oh, he was excited! Now Justin had
a way to know when his new baby sister would come to
play. From that moment on, he checked the old plum tree
several times a day and reported his findings to me. Of
course, he was quite concerned in November when all the
leaves fell off the tree. By January, with the cold and
the rains, he was truly worried whether his baby would
be cold and wet like his tree. He whispered to my tummy
that the tree was strong and that she (the baby) had to
be strong too, and make it through the
By February a few purple leaves
began to shoot forth, and his excitement couldn't be
"My tree is growing, Mommy! Pretty
soon she'll have baby plums, and then I'll have my baby
March brought the plum's beautiful
tiny white flowers, and Justin was overjoyed.
"She's b'ooming, Mommy!" he
chattered, struggling with the word "blooming." He
rushed to kiss my tummy and got kicked in the
"The baby's moving, Mommy, she's
b'ooming, too. I think she wants to come out and see the
So it went for the next couple of
months, as Justin checked every detail of his precious
plum tree and reported to me about the flowers turning
to tiny beads that would become plums.
The rebirth of his tree gave me
ample opportunity to explain the development of the
fetus that was growing inside me. Sometimes I think he
believed I had actually planted a "baby seed" inside my
tummy, because when I drank water he'd say things like,
"You're watering our little flower, Mommy!" I'd laugh
and once again explain in simple terms the story of the
birds and the bees, the plants and the trees.
June finally arrived, and so did
the purple plums. At first they were fairly small, but
Justin climbed his tree anyway to pick some plums off
the branches where the sun shone warmest. He brought
them to me to let me know the baby wasn't ripe
I felt ripe! I was ready to pop!
When were the plums going to start falling from that
Justin would rub my tummy and talk
to his baby sister, telling her she had to wait a little
longer because the fruit was not ready to be picked yet.
His forays into the plum tree lasted longer each day, as
if he was coaxing the tree to ripen quickly. He talked
to the tree and thanked it for letting him know about
this important event in his life. Then one day, it
happened. Justin came running into the house, his eyes
as big as saucers, with a plastic bucket full to the
brim of juicy purple plums.
"Hurry, Mommy, hurry!" he shouted.
"She's coming, she's coming! The plums are ripe, the
plums are ripe!",
I laughed uncontrollably as Justin
stared at my stomach, as if he expected to see his baby
sister erupt any moment. That morning I did feel a bit
queasy, and it wasn't because I had a dental
Before we left the house, Justin
went out to hug his plum tree and whisper that today was
the day his "plum pretty sister" would arrive. He was
As I sat in the dental chair, the
labor pains began, just as Justin had predicted. Our
"plum" baby was coming! I called my parents, and my
husband rushed me to the hospital. At 6:03 p.m. on June
22, the day that will forever live in family fame as
"Plum Pretty Sister Day," our daughter was born. We
didn't name her Purple Plum as Justin suggested, but
chose another favorite flower, Heather.
At Heather's homecoming, Justin
kissed his new playmate and presented her with his
plastic bucket, full to the brim with sweet, ripe,
"These are for you," he said
Justin and Heather are now
teenagers, and the plum tree has become our bonding
symbol. Although we moved from the home that housed
Justin's favorite plum tree, the first tree to be
planted in our new yard was a purple plum, so that
Justin and Heather could know when to expect her special
day. Throughout their growing-up years, the children
spent countless hours nestled in the branches, counting
down the days through the birth of leaves, flowers, buds
and fruit. Our birthday parties are always festooned
with plum branches and baskets brimming with freshly
picked purple plums. Because as Mother Nature--and
Justin--would have it, for the last fifteen years, the
purple plum has ripened exactly on June 22.
From Chicken Soup for the Gardener's