Stories

My Grandfather and a Plum Tree

My Grandfather and a Plum Tree

A snippet of floral designer Eriko Semitsu's childhood, written by herself for the Vestige Story collective. The original piece is written in Japanese.

Eriko was born in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, in a small town in Japan. Life at home was simple, yet comfortable. She lived with her parents, her sister and her two grandparents. She made the first big change of her life when she moved 100 miles north to the big city of Fukuoka for university.

After working as a routined Japanese salary-woman, she decided it was time for another move. Today she lives in Vancouver, Canada.


おじいちゃんと梅の木

When I was growing up in a small town in Japan, we had a beautiful garden that I was secretly proud of.

A giant cherry blossom tree grew in front of our house, surrounded by delicate camellia bushes. 

As you walked into the garden, a range of hydrangeas, lilies, wild roses and gardenias would greet you. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter were all full of seasonal blooms.

We also had a little pond filled with tiny fishes. Beside it stood a traditional stone lantern, an old pine tree and a plum tree.

Our plum tree bloomed sooner than the cherry blossom tree, and it would fruit right before the rainy season in June. We then picked its plum for wine or Umeboshi. It became a yearly family tradition.

Whenever it is sunny in the afternoon, I would sit down to observe the garden from the house. The plum tree always sheltered Grandfather, as he worked hard to take care of the garden. 

When I entered junior high, I was asked to help him water the flowers after dinner. Those sunsets in the garden with Grandfather and his plants were special moments. We never talked much, we were just there to water everything before it got dark. I still remember the distinct smell of wet soil and humid air. 

When I entered senior high, Grandfather fell ill. He then spent most of his time inside the house, and observed the plum tree from afar. 

When I entered university, I moved to a big city away from home to start my new life. New city, new friends. Everything was exciting, unexplored. Each day was filled with amazement, and wonder.

Then one day, Grandfather passed away.

The first time I went back to my hometown was to attend his funeral.

When I revisited Grandfather's  garden, it struck me how pure the air felt. There was a clean scent — a scent that smelled deep green. The scent was full of life. The scent was unique. It made me cry.

I was still adjusting to the big-city life. The bustle was a vast contrast from the calm world in this garden. I never realized that for the past 18 years, I was living in the most beautiful place I have known. 

A few years after Grandfather’s death, our plum tree also passed away. No one knew why. 

I would never be able to see either of them again —
Grandfather standing in the garden, or the plum tree full of life.

We don't know what we have until it leaves you. I never thought that one day I will lose things that were always there in my life. 

This is why each day should be lived fully, with grace. Tell your beloved that you love them whenever you can. There is no guarantee that you will have “next time” to do it. 

This was the lesson taught to me by my grandfather and his plum tree.



おじいちゃんと梅の木
私が生まれ育った家の庭はとても立派な自慢の庭だった。

家の前には大きな桜の木があり、
周りは椿の垣根で囲われ

紫陽花、百合、野バラ、クチナシ
季節折々の花が咲き

メダカが住んでいた手水鉢
立派な松の木に石の灯篭

そして梅の木があった。

早春に桜よりも早く花を咲かせ
梅雨を迎える前には沢山の可愛らしい実をつけ
梅酒や梅干しとして
私たちの食卓を彩ってくれた。

気持ちのいい光が差し込む昼下がり。
縁側に座ると見える光景はいつも決まって

すみずみまで手入れされた庭と、
1日も欠かすことなく世話をする祖父の姿だった。

小学生の頃、私が手伝っていたのは
夕食後の水やりだった。

日が沈み、あたりが暗くなりはじめる頃。

庭に出て
言葉を交わすでもなく祖父と黙々と水をやる時間。

潤っていく空気と
土が湿っていく香りがなんとも言えず心地よかった。

高校生になる頃
祖父は体調を崩し
庭に立つより家の中から梅の木を眺めていることの方が多くなった。

そして18歳の春。
私は高校を卒業し、実家を出て知らない街に住み始めた。

新しい土地、新しい友達。
何もかも楽しくて刺激的な毎日。
そんな真っ只中で
祖父は天国へ旅立ってしまった。

最期のお別れの為
久しぶりに戻った実家の庭で
あまりにも綺麗に澄んだ
生命力ある空気に思わず涙が止まらなかった。

賑やかな都会の空気に慣れはじめた頃。
祖父が創り出した美しい庭の空気は
驚くほど綺麗だった。

こんなにも綺麗な空気を毎日吸って
18年生きてきたなんて
今まで知らなかった。

祖父の死から数年
庭の梅の木も後を追うように枯れてしまった。何が原因だったかわからなかった。

もう見ることのできない
庭に立つ寡黙な祖父の姿と
ライムグリーンの梅の実。

あんなにも当たり前に目の前にあったもの。
それらを無くしてしまうのは一瞬で
無くしてからその有り難さに気づくこと。

だから毎日を後悔しないように生きて
大好きな人には大好きだと伝えること。

梅の木と祖父と共に過ごした18年が教えてくれた、大切なこと。

Photography by Etsuko Photography.

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