My Lemon Tree painting took about two weeks to complete.

The title for this post has me humming the delightful Peter, Paul & Mary song by the same name. But my story about the overgrown lemon tree in my backyard does not carry a song. It does, however, accompany a painting that I finished last week.

Before I start my story, I explain that I am living in my childhood home. I moved there after my separation and subsequent divorce eight years ago. At that time, my father had recently died and my mother was in a nursing home. My mother passed away one year later.

I am still here.

The 60-year-old fence that surrounds my lemon tree is barely holding up. In the drabness of my patio, my lemon tree is thriving. It has weathered many years of neglect and remains in its original wooden planter. The roots eventually broke through the bottom and firmly took hold. Without being watered for a decade, it somehow survived.

It was always handy to have a lemon at my disposal whenever a recipe called for one, but this past year I began appreciating its beauty. A month ago I snapped pictures of its blossoms, which I added into my painting. I marveled at the change when the green fruit hinted slowly toward yellow.

I could write endless parables about the metaphor of a lemon. But my story begins with the memory of my mother bringing home a lemon bush for my father. He always required lemons for his hot tea and there would be no shortage of lemons this way.

That was about thirty years ago. Back then it was still possible to walk through the patio. But just to reach a lemon required navigating a maze of boxes covered with tarps.

My father was a hoarder. He was unable to throw things away and gradually the back yard filled up with countless boxes and trash. As the years went on, his condition worsened.

This photo shows some of the clutter outside when I was dressed up as a little princess.

When I remember my parents having disagreements, they’re always the same ones. My mother would be furious with my father for adding to his trash collection. He would beg for forgiveness and my mother would make him sign an “agreement” where he promised he would throw away one box every day.

If he didn’t, my mother threatened she would do it. I don’t believe she ever did. Eventually, she’d realize that he was simply taking away a box and moving it somewhere else. With exasperation, she would hold it together until the next fight.

I accepted that I barely had any closet space growing up because of my father’s “stuff.” The plus side was that he saved all my report cards, schoolwork and every piece of my artwork.

Despite his frailty, my father would occasionally leave the nursing home to visit his coop with my oldest son. He wanted to give him pointers as to where coins and stamps might be buried. But he still wasn’t able to find them or discard anything.

I wasn’t able to move into the abandoned coop until it was emptied of trash. After my father died, my oldest son helped me by spending many hours emptying it. He filled up ten dumpsters.

I appreciated that my son was able to sort through and save the sentimental items I now treasure. At that time, I wasn’t well enough to do much because I was recovering from cataract surgery.

My old bedroom.

The kitchen.

My story leads now to my “former life,” when I had a huge house, a housekeeper, and three complicated teenagers.

I’ll never forget my father’s vulnerability, when he expressed that he wasn’t able to take care of my mother anymore. Her frequent hospitalizations had worn him down and he was scared.

At that point, I had my parents move in with me. The plan was that my parents would live with me until there was an opening at The Jewish Home For the Aging.

As my mother slid into dementia, my father and I became very close and he became dependent upon me. I feel emotional remembering his attachment to a steaming hot mug of Lipton tea.

It now became my job to brew his favorite drink. I tried really hard to get it right. And one day, his lips trembled as he told me, “Sweetheart, it’s wonderful! – Just the right amount of lemon this time. Be sure to remember what you did!”

He was extremely critical and rarely did I get it right. I basked in his compliment. I was happy and sad at the same time, because it wasn’t easy to replace my mother.

The memory of when he asked me if he could stay and my mother could go to The Jewish Home alone is a sad one. His voice was practically begging when he said he would quietly live in his grandson’s bedroom. His word were, “You won’t even notice me and I won’t be any trouble.” My heart breaks remembering our conversation.

Keeping him and my mother together as their health declined engulfed my life for several years. This blog helped me vent about my struggles while I was going through them.

What a contrast to my current life! I miss my parents, but now I can peacefully appreciate and gain insight from even the most painful memories. I feel their love surrounding me and I’m so grateful.

I’m also blessed that I am able to paint lovely pictures of any subject I choose. For me, painting is about seeing contrast, color and beauty.

“Lemon Tree” began with a main photo as my reference. The scene was busy and crowded with dirty leaves. But right away I was intrigued by the interesting texture of the branches. I combined other reference objects (blossoms, leaves, green lemons) into the main photo below.

My original Lemon Tree reference photo

Creating my layout was fun. Perhaps I am living my childhood again. I share something I wrote at the age of eight below:

Although I hated living with a hoarder, I am grateful that my father saved my artwork.

I treasure my emotions, because over this past year I have felt very numb. Writing this story evoked so many beautiful feelings.

My father also saved all the cards I ever gave him. This one below made me teary from the start. But then I laughed aloud when I read the part where I told him he could go through my trash anytime.

And after that, I cried again.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
This entry was posted in Biographical, Healing and Hope and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to LEMON TREE

  1. Belinda O says:

    Such a thoughtful post, and what a wonderful way to tie your past to your art.


    • Judy says:

      Aw, thank you, Belinda. I haven’t written in 4 months and this really surprised me. When I created my painting I didn’t know it would evoke so many memories from my past. I appreciate your comment very much!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Norm says:

    What a beautiful tribute to the lemon tree. It took me back to growing up with mom and Dad and how I miss them. Love you Jude – you are a great writer.


    • Judy says:

      Oh, Norm – thank you so much for writing. This story definitely pulled at my heartstrings. And knowing you appreciated it means so much to me. Of course, you lived through all that I wrote about. There was no escaping dad’s hoarding and mom trying to deal with it. Love you so much, dear brother.


  3. Lynn Gordon says:

    Wonderful, amazing art! And thank you for sharing your evocative and poignant family stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much, Lynn! It truly is my pleasure to share. The story surprised me – I didn’t know when I painted those lemons where it would lead me. The creative process is definitely mysterious and healing. I really appreciate that you took the time to comment. Thank you again.


  4. Who I am says:

    That was a beautiful story and gorgeous painting. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your talent for art, music and storytelling is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your experiences with your parents and the beauty of the lemon tree.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      No thank you, Allyson! It’s really my pleasure to share from my heart and I’m glad I was able to write a story about my painting. It just came to me later on, and I’m glad it did. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nancy says:

    What a beautiful, loving story. Thank you Judy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann Coleman says:

    Your writing is so beautiful, and it is so honest and open. I loved the memories you shared, and your changing perspective. The art you have created and and the memories are so tied together, and the result if wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Ann, I am savoring and treasuring your comment. There is a vulnerability that comes when opening my heart, and I have discovered that honesty is very healing for me. Thank you again so much for appreciating my story.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. K E Garland says:

    This is beautiful. You were a very profound eight-year-old girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lorriebowden says:

    Hi Judy. I read this post yesterday and was not able to comment at that time. I just wanted to tell you that it touched me greatly. Number one, your art is INCREDIBLE! So beautiful…it is hard to believe it is a painting. And, number two, I can feel your emotions from your words and I understand! We have experienced similar life events and…I UNDERSTAND!
    Sweet Blessings to you for a new year…2021. May it be filled with light…and peace. Stay well…be safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Hi Lorrie, thank you so much for your beautiful comment – you really touched my heart. I have no doubt you understand, as perhaps you have experienced the wrench decisions made during our parents’ decline. I appreciate that you shared with me.
      I will continue to create art and music. You understand well about healing and you and I are in that “club.” We maintain positivity and hope for the future. May 2021 be a year of healing!


  10. Judy, I just love this post. I love everything about it even the pink flowers on your bedspread in your old room! 🌸 You are a gifted writer and artist and extraordinary human being. PS: your talents are apparent from early on: “Like a grasshopper, it may not look pretty but it has a kind heart.” So sweet! 🤍🤍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much, Stacy!! It was fun sharing old stories and pictures and it’s so touching that you appreciated them. I have a big smile and know that you just made my day with your comment. 🙂


I would love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s