Arbol de la Vida que fue

I was 12 when my dad came to our newly purchased home with a small potted guava tree. He planted it in the front yard. My mom through out the years said its label had said it came from a university experiment of some kind but maybe I misheard. Whatever it’s origin, it became an emblematic symbol of a life that lasted forever.

It was there when in the 6th grade, at the turn of the century, the art teacher asked us to draw our front yard. When I started homeschooling and picked up baking as a side-course (pun intended) I used the guava fruits to make fresh “mermelada” drizzled over puff pastry. Mom also taught me how to prepare classic “casquitos” which is a way of preserving the guava fruit which you might have frozen in the summer while in season or made it fresh. The smell can fill a neighborhood.

I’d sit on the expanding branches. Little brothers would hang from it, and we even included a scene of it in our independent movie, The Illustrator.

Pedestrians often picked fruits to eat (a guava fruit costs upwards of a dollar at the store), while others came with several friends to steal. Once, a gang of men filled their cargo pockets and an hour later I caught the scent of guava from a nearby house. Once a year, some would even drive up to our driveway to click branches off for their barbeques as it’s said the smell of the leaves adds a nice touch to grilled meat.

After a decade and a half, it produced less and less and even then, a very persistent neighbor would walk by every morning, eyeing the fruits. Fed up from the pillage, one of us politely asked him to not pick the very last ones sprouting, as we wanted to let them ripen a bit.

“Oh,” he arrogantly insisted, “I like them green, not ripe.”

Even with us pleading, the selfishness didn’t let him see we were demanding he respect our humble, aging, private property.

The neighbor walked by afterwards with a can of something and watered the small tree. A stain appeared on its trunk and it died shortly afterward. After being so adored by many, we uprooted it and my dad cut up the branches to make my mom an artistic coffee table.

I painted many of it’s fruits throughout the years. It’s gone, but it was there for so long that whenever I see small, rounded, aromatic guavas, I think of that sort of life from long ago when time felt eternal.