Here’s the thing about our 40-foot-tall lemon tree. Even when you consider yourself to be on the taller end of the spectrum of God’s Eve-like creatures, it is damn frustrating. There you stand, all five-foot-eight of yourself, with maybe another two feet of arm reaching over your head, grasping hundreds of yellow, beautiful lemons dangling there, but only one is within reach.
This matter is complicated by the fact that, if I had my druthers, my feet would remain firmly planted on the ground for the rest of my life. Me and heights? We’re not friends. Not at all. So I’m not climbing the damn thing, and I’m not even propping up a ladder and going up that. There are grocery stores. They sell lemons at ground level.
(Here’s the other thing about our 40-foot-tall lemon tree: It’s like that fish your grandfather caught on the lake that summer. Sometimes, when I talk about it, it’s 50 feet tall. And sometimes, it’s 30. But most often, it’s 40 or 50 feet of sprawling lemon madness. I haven’t measured it, so you’ll just have to trust my, um, estimate.)
Before The Unicorn and I even moved into this house with its gargantuan tree of sunshine, I mused with a friend about this particularly acidic dilemma. How to get at the lemons that one cannot reach? Is this a situation where one can just shake the tree and expect a rain of yellow grenades to fall about one’s shoulders?
“You should get one of those fruit picker things they use in orchards,” she said. “You know, the ones that extend like a long arm into the tree and grab the fruit?”
Obviously I did not know. I have experienced a lot, but I’ll admit I haven’t spent much time in orchards over the course of my life, and certainly not for the purposes of picking fruit.
(Now is the moment when I am especially appreciating all those who have, and do, and who will pick my fruit from orchards around the state and the world. Thank you, orchard workers.)
I filed this piece of knowledge away, and went about the hectic job of packing myself out of my old apartment.
On the day The Unicorn’s movers did their thing, we went out to a late lunch after the last box had been carried into the house, and then stopped at Home Depot on the way home to check out the grill we wanted to buy. “We should see if they have that fruit picker thing you were talking about,” he said, and off we went to the garden section, though I’ll admit I was skeptical. Why would someplace as generic as Home Depot carry a fruit harvester? Wasn’t the store all about suburban homes with their lawns and their patios and their retiling projects?
Of course, what I didn’t count on is that, in many parts of California, the backyard of the typical suburban home might, indeed, give rise to the need for a fruit harvester. And, thusly and therefore, there, hanging on a back wall of the garden section, were dozens of fruit harvesters, which looked an awful lot to my Mid-Atlantic Regional eyes like a lacrosse stick. A lacrosse stick with fingers and a cushion at the bottom of the pocket.
We took one off the wall and took it home, where I promptly snaked it into the lemon tree branches, twisted it, and pulled.
A lemon dropped neatly into the cushion at the bottom of the basket, and I stared at it as if it had been handed to me by an alien. “It works!” I said.
It was the perfect housewarming gift to ourselves.