Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
By Cheryl Harrison
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As a child, Keri loved to visit Nonna's farm, but divorce changed everything. Her parent's volatile relationship had sucked all of the oxygen out of the last family gathering. Since then, Nonna's invitations were casually thrown away. Weekend visitation and child custody arguments became the measure of Keri's childhood. As soon as Keri was old enough, she moved into a modest apartment of her own. Keri enjoyed her new-found freedom. Then one day she received a message from Aunt Sue.
Keri, Your Nonna's health is failing and we need help. Could you come, please?
Without hesitation, Keri reached for her cell phone and dialed Nonna's farm.
Aunt Sue answered on the first ring, "Hello..."
"Aunt Sue? It's me, Keri. I just received your message. Is Nonna okay?"
“Oh, Keri,” Aunt Sue's voice trembled, “I have terrible news. We found your Nonna passed out in the garden today. She died on the way to the hospital. The doctor said it was her heart."
It had been two months since that phone call. Keri drew a sharp breath and pushed the painful memory away. She parked the truck in front of the main house, and as the engine sputtered into silence she climbed out of the driver's seat.
Not much had changed. Four cobblestone steps led to a covered porch. Two padded rocking chairs sat in a cove of potted plants and chimes. An old porch swing swayed playfully in the breeze.
“Keri, is that you?” Aunt Sue called out from somewhere in the house.
Keri opened the screen door and stepped into a large living area. She glanced around the room. It was just as she remembered. Overstuffed sofas and chairs beckoned loved ones to enjoy the cozy fireplace. A huge wooden dining table still occupied the left side of the room. Keri closed her eyes, recalling the aroma of roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pie.
Aunt Sue carried a stack of clean linens into the room. “Welcome home, Keri. I thought I heard the front door open. How was your trip?"
"Not too bad," Keri answered.
Aunt Sue motioned toward the back of the house. "Your Nonna left something for you in the kitchen. Maybe you could take a look while I put these things away?"
Keri dropped her bag on the floor and entered the kitchen. Near the sink, she found a note attached to a small plant.
My Sweet Keri:
If you are reading this message, I must be gone. The doctor said it could happen suddenly, so I prepared this gift for you in advance.
The farm is now yours. You may be scared, but I am confident you will do a great job.
Plant this tree in the fertile ground near the back door. Watch over it, and make sure it receives enough sunlight and water. It may take some time, but if you nurture the tree it will bear beautiful lemons that have seasonal value. Summer lemons make cold lemonade for family game nights. Fall lemons provide mystery ingredients for holiday recipes. Winter lemons soothe sore throats, and spring lemons provide seeds to plant and share with others.
Keri, please enjoy your new life on the farm. You deserve some happiness. Always remember that there is a season for everything. Don't be sad for me. My eternal season with Jesus has finally begun. My cup spills over with joy and I'm sure the lemonade has never been sweeter.
Aunt Sue returned to the kitchen and opened the pantry door. "Are you hungry, Keri? Would you like something to eat?"
Keri's eyes glistened with tears. "Food sounds good, but before we eat I need to do something."
She tucked Nonna's note into her sweater pocket, scooped up the lemon tree and turned toward the back door.
"Let me plant this tree. Then, maybe you could teach me some of Nonna's favorite recipes? The holiday season is fast approaching and I think it's time for a family reunion."
Aunt Sue nodded. "I agree."
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