Baby Lemons

“Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flowers smell sweet,” as the song goes. I have learned these words are indeed true as I’ve watched the yearly cycle of the lemon tree in our sitting room. 

The tree was a gift for my mother-in-law (we all called her “Mommy”) six years ago. She moved to an apartment with a large east-facing window, and she loved plants—the lemon tree gift was a no-brainer. The lemon tree went over well. She was shocked to learn it would actually produce fruit. I recall how excited she sounded when telling me about its first blossom. 

The fruit ripens slowly—usually taking until December to turn yellow and fill with juice. My wife visited my mother-in-law at least weekly, and during her weekly visits, she would sometimes call me with a lemon update. I would hear Mommy in the background excitedly chiming in with her own lemon report. I always marveled at how much joy she got growing her lemons, even though it was rare to have more than one each year.  

December 2020, iPhone 8

By November, when the fruit had reached full size, and all that remained was to turn bright lemon yellow, my wife would take pictures of the lemon. Mommy would be standing beside the yellowing fruit in each image, smiling proudly as if she had won a blue ribbon at a country fair. It thrilled me that such a simple gift could bring so much joy.  

A little less than three years ago, Mommy came to live with us. The lemon tree took its place among our plants in the east-facing window of our sitting room. Mommy would watch its yearly cycle and take an afternoon snooze on the sofa. She last saw the blossoms in March 2019. 

Since the tree came to live with us, I noticed the flowers start in late January. They are delicate and white with a very soft perfume. Until this year, I never noticed the fragrance–undoubtedly, because usually there were no more than three or four blossoms each season. But this year was spectacular. I counted 34 flowers, and within a week or so of the first buds, the entire front of the house smelled of lemon blossoms for weeks. 

Those lemon reports and images were a series of life’s little moments that, once past and then recalled, bring to mind the realization of how meaningful and precious they were. 

Every Monday, I water the lemon tree. I follow its yearly cycle, count the blossoms, watch the fruit ripen—I think about my mother-in-law. There are no lemon reports, but as my wife had done, I take a few pictures–for whom it’s not clear. Mommy would like that. I suppose it has become a family tradition. 


  1. Who knew it took so long for a lemon to ripen? And what a great opportunity to maintain connection with your mother-in-law.

    1. Yeah, that first year we thought something was wrong. Now we’ve learned—blossoms in January, fruit in December.

      Looking back, it’s interesting how many conversations started because of that tree.

  2. This is a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. She was a wonderful person.

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