Sugar Plum Tree


“Have you ever heard of the Sugar Plum Tree? ‘Tis a marvel of great renown! It lies on the shore of the Lollipop Sea, in the harbor of Shut-Eye Town.”

This was my absolutely favorite nursery rhyme by Eugene Field when I was a small child. I would beg my mother to read it to me over and over and over again. Of course, she did. She would hold up the book and show me the magnificent picture of my Sugar Plum Tree. Over and over and over again. My 2 older sisters would patiently listen to the story and dutifully look at the pictures. Over and over and over again.

I  loved that story. And that tree was very real to me. One day, in my childhood wanderings around our yard, I found a seed from a sugar maple tree and decided to plant my own Sugar Plum Tree. Sugar maple tree, Sugar Plum Tree….it was a short leap from one to the other in the mind of a 4 year old. And, I was bored. My 2 older sisters were in school, and I had some extra time on my hands. So, I planted that little seed in our back yard. I announced what I did to the rest of the family that evening at dinner. They assured me that I would certainly have my own Sugar Plum Tree in due time. I kept a watchful eye on the exact spot for the next few days.

Eventually, a small sapling appeared exactly where I had planted my seed. My efforts had paid off! There was great celebration in our house, because I finally had my very own Sugar Plum Tree! My father replanted the tree to the front of the house, where it would be easier for me to keep an eye on it. Every morning I would go outside and check on my tree. My Mom and Dad explained that the tree was too small and too young to bear fruit. It would take time. I understood that. I could be patient.

Finally, the magic day came! One morning my mother and sisters woke me up, and told me that my Sugar Plum Tree had finally bloomed. I ran outside with them, and sure enough, every branch of my tree was covered with candy! It was a miracle, but one that I never doubted would happen, because I planted that seed and held on with child-like faith that my tree would grow.

Of course, as I got older, I realized that my father had bought the sapling and planted it at the exact place where I had planted the seed. And, of course, it was my mother and sisters who trimmed the tree with candy for me. Was I disappointed to learn the truth? No. If anything else, it just renewed my conviction that miracles do happen, and you never know what will grow from one small seed.

As a young adult, during one of my visits home, my mother asked me if I remembered “The Sugar Plum Tree”. I opened my mouth and recited the entire poem word for word. My family just stared at me in shock. I was stunned.  I hadn’t even thought of that poem for over 20 years, and yet I remembered every single word, never once faltering as I recited my beloved nursery rhyme. Once everyone had regained their composure, my mother finally said, “You mean, after all those times you made me read that to you, you actually had it memorized?”  I could see my 2 older sisters having similar thoughts; “After all those times we had to sit and listen to it….”

Obviously, I didn’t know I had that poem memorized until the I recited it at that exact moment. Had I consciously tried to remember it, the cognitive (thinking) part of my brain, and it’s good buddy (my ego) would have gotten in my way. But, the part of my brain which stores emotional memories took care of my Sugar Plum Tree and allowed it to continue to grow and bear fruit through the years.

A framed copy of the Sugar Plum Tree hangs in my office today. Every time I glance at it I am reminded that miracles do happen. All you have to do is plant a seed, have some faith, and watch what grows.

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

childhood, Eugene Field, faith, life lessons, magic, miracles, Sugar Plum Tree