The Gumdrop Tree, by Myron Unger by
50
(79 Stories)

Prompted By New Beginnings

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The gumdrop tree came to our house unheralded,
And unpretentious.
It stood six inches tall.
Its silver-foil branches were covered with gumdrops.

But little hands lifted the top of the garbage pail, and discovered the resting place of the gumdrop tree.

We put it in a corner of the kitchen,
And its tiny, colored candies began looking more and more like blossoms.
Until one day, we decided to eat them….
The gumdrops on the gumdrop tree.

It was after dinner that night,
We placed the gumdrop tree in the center of the floor,
And sat in a circle around it.
And we told each other what had happened to us that day,
And we laughed.
Then we each had one gumdrop.

And each night,
Thereafter….
We would put the gumdrop tree in the center of the floor,
And sit around it….

We would sing songs, or tell stories, or just visit…
And it was warm,
And we were warm….
And one night we even danced around it,
Then we each ate one gumdrop.

The tree began losing its blossoms,
And some of the limbs were almost bare….
And silver.
Then, it seemed like we found more importance in each gumdrop.
We took more time to savor the chewy sweetness.

And then the night passed when we ate the last gumdrop off
the gumdrop tree.
And we clapped our hands for all the joy it had brought us.

And the gumdrop tree was discarded for we said we could
never replace the sweets we had taken from it….

But little hands lifted the top of the garbage pail,
and discovered the resting place of the gumdrop tree.
Gentle hands repaired the gumdrop tree….
With soothing fingers…
And scotch tape.

And it was then that the gumdrop tree was again placed in
the center of the hard linoleum floor,
And flat on their tummies,
Chins resting on hands and elbows,
The little faces stared at the gumdrop tree,
And remembered the colored drops…
And smiled….
About many things.

Now the simple wisdom of children often remind us of God’s Way,
It is always an unbelievable quality,
Yet quite proper, and in order.
For children are close to heaven.

And so it was with the gumdrop tree…..

For the silver branches of fleeting life are not shorn of the
pleasures that once grew there.
There is always the precious memory….
Of Youth,
Of Courage,
Of Love,
Of Deeds……
On each barren branch.

And for some of us,
There may still be the promise of the remaining gumdrops.
And the knowledge that we must taste each one succinctly,
As a bee sucks honey.

The gumdrop tree will stand in the center of our room when
we take the time to place it there……


Myron Unger, my father, died of cancer in 1960, when I was ten. Thirty years later I inherited a thick folio of his manuscripts, from which I’ve previously posted his poignant reflection on fatherhood, Upon Reaching the Age of Three. This poem seemed especially appropriate for the relaunch of Retrospect because of the way it celebrates savored memories. But the image of gentle, wise hands saving the discarded tree from oblivion also seemed relevant! With gratitude for stories old and new.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.


Tags: Myron Unger
Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. joan stommen says:

    Oh John, How I love this poem!
    Especially the little tummies and hands on chins with eyes on the gumdrop tree….what joy that brings back, right! The circle of life and family traditions. I’m going to share with my readers who’ll be moved as much as I am by your/your father’s gift of illustrating with words! Beautifully done!

  2. Suzy says:

    John, this poem is a great way to celebrate the relaunch! Do you remember the gumdrop tree from your childhood? Or was your father describing HIS childhood? Either way it’s charming. Thank you for all your assistance with our new beginning!

    • John Zussman says:

      Good question. I don’t remember an actual, physical gumdrop tree, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. Or maybe it was only metaphoric. In either case, it’s a beautiful, graceful image. Thanks for your kind words about the poem.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    John, this is so lovely. In some ways it reminds me of “The Giving Tree”, only much more personal and happy, redolent in memories, with the little hands on chins. Your father had such a gift and we thank you for sharing this with us. What a treasure.

    • John Zussman says:

      Thanks, Betsy. You my be interested to know that this poem was reprinted in my Temple Emanu-El confirmation class program booklet—for the congregation to reflect on while we were marching up to get our certificates. So you might have read it before.

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        A worthy part of confirmation, but I don’t remember attending any other services besides my brother’s and my own, John. Somehow, Shavuot didn’t seem like a big holiday back in the day.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    What a gift your father left you. I really enjoyed his story. My father also loved to write but didn’t do very much of it as a CPA. Reading his World War II letters was revealing. He also wrote something for each of my kids for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I should probably share those stories.

  5. rosie says:

    John, haven’t been keeping up with this site for some time. Feeling a bit sad and this story was a lovely way to deflect and redirect.

  6. rosie says:

    Yes, it is beautiful and it brings back memories that bounce around in my head shedding light wherever it lands.

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