A 6-year-old South African boy introduced me to the joy of loquat eating.
My family moved to the southern most part of my history on a hot Spring day. As the moving truck was pulling out of our shiny new driveway, a pip of a boy riding a bike much too large for his frame was pulling in.
“My name is Clayton, I live in the yellow house” “Can I have some of your fruit?”, he said in a boy’s voice with a well-traveled man’s accent.
Funny, this wasn’t the first time in my life I’d been asked that question –just not from a boy this young.
Clayton ditched his bike in the middle of our driveway (the same place he left it many times after), grabbed my hand and walked me around the North side of our new home. In a space no wider than a church door grew the most magnificent tree that was heavy with fruit. A loquat tree.
“Lift me up!”, Clayton shouted even though we were just inches apart.
Finally! My cheerleading days were about to pay off. In less than 30 seconds, Clayton was standing on my shoulders dropping the ripe sherbet colored fruit to the ground.
For the next half-hour, Clayton and I sat under the shade of the loquat tree eating the small sweet fruit. Clayton taught me you can either eat the skin or peel it off (he chose to peel it). He taught me that most times there were two seeds inside, but sometimes just one –and that was a lucky one (we found luck twice that day).
I learned a lot about loquats, 6-year-old boys and the warmth of hospitality sitting under my single tree urban orchard with Clayton.
Clayton was a fixture in my life for 3 years –stopping by after-school most days still wearing his once pressed uniform. My back door was always open for him and he knew where I kept the candy. During loquat season, he switched from the man-made candy to the natural kind and helped himself to the ripe fruit from my tree.
Clayton and his family moved back to South Africa when he was a few days shy of his 10th birthday.
I think about him every year when the first loquat falls.