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I came across an old photograph of my grandparents when looking through the various photo albums in our ancestral home. When I was seven years old, the picture was taken in our lovely orchard. When I removed the photo from the folder and examined it carefully, vivid memories from the past surfaced in my head.
Grandpa Luke used to take me to the family orchard in Louisiana, particularly during summer vacation and spring break. The orchard was heavily populated with fruit and nut-bearing trees, flowering plants, well-kept bushes, and vegetables. Under the towering oak and cedar trees, there were stone benches. Yellow and orange canaries flew from one tree canopy to another. In the far corner of the orchard, there was a small pond that glistened as the sun’s rays hit the water. Truly, it was a breathtaking sight.
Grandpa would gather using a hooked rod for the ripest apples, blueberries, figs, and apricots from the large trees. He was also on the lookout for almonds, pecans and walnuts. He would chuckle heartily as I eagerly catch the falling fruits and nuts with a basket. Sometimes, he would make me pick those juicy strawberries from the small field. We would also go to where most of the fresh vegetables and herbs were located. Grandpa would accompany me in picking cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and beans from the lush field. He would also help me gather herbs such as thyme and rosemary. Grandpa would teach me how to choose the freshest and largest of every kind.
After gathering a rich harvest, we would go back to our ancestral house where Grandma Laura would be waiting to unload our baskets. I remembered helping her prepare those mouth-watering jams, jellies, marmalades and milk shakes from the various fruits we have chosen. She would make hearty soups and vegetable salads which the whole family would enjoy along with her special rosemary chicken and baked potatoes. Grandma also taught me how to prepare the most scrumptious apple-pecan pie which has been considered as a family delicacy for several years. During weekends, we got to spend time with each other through our family picnics at the orchard.
Aside from our activities in the kitchen, Grandma patiently taught me how to make scrapbooks out of pressed flowers and leaves. She narrated how she has learned this not just as an expression of her love for the arts and crafts, but also, as a way of letting Grandpa know how she deeply appreciates and loves him. She told me that during autumn, she would help Grandpa collect fallen leaves and petals from the orchard. She would sort out these leaves and petals according to shape and color, allowing them to dry overnight. Then she would place them in thick sheets of paper, press them together using thin wood slabs, and after a few days, arrange them creatively in order to form a scrapbook. She would then write inspirational messages to Grandpa on the scrapbook, which she gives to him after dinner or before they go to sleep. It was indeed a sweet and honorable gesture, which I learned to do in order to express myself to my parents and siblings especially during notable occasions.
As I looked at the old photo once more, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the influence that my grandparents have made in my life. I learned to appreciate nature and the arts because of them. It was their deep admiration and respect for nature that enabled them to preserve the beauty of the orchard for several years, even until today. It was their unconditional love for each other and for the family that allowed them to create wonderful artworks and food recipes from scratch. Most of all, the memories I had with them at the orchard served as an inspiration for me to become the artist I am today.
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