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THE GUM TREE by Maurine Bordelon LaCour


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Published January 4, 2009                              

The year was 1974.  My father and mother, Lannie and Ollie Bordelon, decided to sell their home and farm in Bayou Rouge and move to Baton Rouge. My two sisters, Carol and Mona and my brother, Yam, lived in the area so it was an easy choice. As family was of utmost importance to my parents, being near their grandchildren was a driving force in their decision. My husband, Percy, and I lived in New Orleans but were also considering a  relocation to Baton Rouge. My sister, Joyce, and her husband, Nels, lived in Seattle, Washington.

 My parents settled in an area called Glen Oaks which was a nice subdivision situated in the suburbs and on the northeast side of downtown Baton Rouge. The tree lined streets and neat homes with meticulous manicured lawns showed extreme pride of ownership. This was going to be their new home. The house was situated on a large corner lot with plenty of parking for the steady stream of visitors that certainly would come.  Daddy obtained his license and opened up a small television repair shop.  Mama started a garden almost immediately, this time substituting flowers and trees for the vegetable patch she always had. A neighbor gave Mama a small tree and she planted it, later finding out it was just a gum tree. However, Mama found beauty in everything so she watered the tree and allowed it to grow.

One day in early spring, she was sitting on their oversized patio, swinging her grandson, Casey. He looked up with inquisitive eyes and asked" Maw Maw, What kind of tree is that?”  “Well, Casey, it is a gum tree” she gently replied. Casey retorted “But, Maw Maw, then why doesn't it have gum on it.?”  Mama, trying hard to smother a laugh that was welling up in her belly, explained "Casey, it just has not bloomed yet." Satisfied with her explanation, Casey slid off her lap and scurried off to play. That information was quickly catalogued in Mama’s witted mind to be used at a later date.

Several weeks passed and Mama received a call that the grandchildren were coming for a visit. She was prepared. Mama rushed into the guest bedroom and reached into the top dresser drawer where she had secretly hid her stash. Her right thumb nail quickly sliced open the cellophane wrapper on the cartons of Juicy Fruit and Double Mint gum. She slipped the single packages of gum into the bulging pockets of her housecoat, got a step stool and a roll of crinkle ribbon, and then went outside to perform her task. Slowly, and with the precision of an artist getting ready to paint a masterpiece, she hung every package of gum. She carefully tied each of them with a neat little bow so they covered the entire tree until it appeared like nature's work at it's finest.

When the grandkids arrived, Mama, with a sheepish grin on her face, told them" I have a surprise for you all, come and see. The tree has bloomed" As they followed Mama outside, the grandchildren pushed each other to gain the most prominent view. Their eyes wide with amazement and in whispered unison, they exclaimed "It did bloom". Mama slipped back into the house with a satisfied smile on her face, leaving the grandchildren squealing in glee and picking the fruit of the gum tree.

As the years slowly passed, the good times spent at Dad and Mom’s home on Silverleaf Drive was quickly coming to an end. They began to fear for their safety as nighttime brought disturbances and the sound of police sirens became commonplace. It caused sleepless nights for our parents; their peaceful existence was no longer. Real estate signs were popping up everywhere. Different companies displayed signs with eye catching logos and bright designs aimed at attracting the attention of each and every passerby. Driving down the street, one would see a multitude of different colors swaying in the breeze, like fairies dancing on the tidy lawns. Call me, call me, they seemed to say.

As a family, my brother, sisters and I united to help them sell their house and build another home where our aging parents would be able to spend their sunset years in peace and tranquility. The saddest part of Daddy and Mama moving was that it would be the end of the tree. The GUM TREE would bear no more…....



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