When I was little, my grandma lived in an apartment in town. Unlike many apartments, this one had, not only a front porch (which will no doubt be the subject of another post) but also a small yard! Actually, for an apartment, it was a rather large yard. In the center of the yard was a gigantic Mulberry Bush/Tree.
I’m sure it was once a bush, but it was so overgrown it had become a tree in its own right. Even as a child, I realized that no one had ever, intentionally, planted such a large tree in such a limited amount of real estate. Yet, there it was- a veritable feast for human and bird alike!
The apartment had been a boarding house many years ago as evidenced by the abandoned hinges that adorned the frame of each doorway. At some point in its past, that building must have been “high-class living”. The mulberry bush/tree even had a concrete sidewalk running from the back door to the tree. It then circled the tree and made its way, leisurely, past the black- eyed- susans and daisies to the alley, where it ended amid lilac bushes and a long ago dilapidated fence and arbor, that, no doubt, used to welcome friends and tenants alike.
Even in its worn state, I thought it was magical! I imagined parasoled, gloved ladies sitting in the yard sipping iced tea and enjoying a small bowl of the sweet/tart berries while engaging in the gossip of the day. Perhaps the berries were even used in a pie or cobbler! Maybe they were for wine or tea. Grandma said you could take them and use the juice as a dye for material. We even painted pictures with it one time! Whatever the reality had been, I was certain it was magnificent!
However, for me, the Mulberry Tree simply signaled spring and the upcoming summer and many lazy nights with my Grandma. We would sit outside or take a walk down to the water front to escape the heat of the one bedroom apartment. In those days, Grandma was still “old school”, which meant no air-conditioning. Upon our return trip, we could cut through that same alley and walk down the sidewalk towards the tree. I would ask to pick and eat some and Grandma would always “happen to have” a butter dish carefully hidden under the back steps for just such an occasion.
Exhausted from the exercise or the heat, or both, we would hike the two flights up to her apartment to carefully wash, and ever so slightly sweeten our find! Then we would sit, both of us, cross-legged, on the porch, or better yet, the two large rocks out back and savor each berry.