“Plum Pretty”


Dear Reader:

I remember when I was presenting social studies workshops around the state, particularly for third grade teachers, their biggest challenge was teaching time (and its relevance to the present) to eight-year-olds…with little or no concept of time.

I used to do a little activity, using South Carolina History as the backdrop, to try to teach the students “grammar” clues to look for… when deciding if something was past, present, or future.

I would tell the third graders to stand by their desk and listen to the clues carefully before responding. ( I had already done a short lesson on verb tenses like (am/is or was or will be) before starting the activity.

It would go something like this:

I would call on a student (standing by his/her desk) and read a statement like: “Francis Marion WAS a revolutionary hero from South Carolina in the 1700’s… and his home WAS in Berkeley County.” Is this a present, past or future statement about the famous Swamp Fox, Francis Marion?

If it  was a present statement…the student would jump up and down by the desk, if it was a past statement-the student would take one step backwards and if it was a future statement…the student would take one step forward.

It did seem to help the teachers, somewhat, but even my eighth graders appeared pretty clueless when it came to guessing ages or figuring out time periods in history. If an eighth grade teacher asked her students her age…she could expect a wide diversity of answers from 20 to 80…they honestly didn’t know.

Now that I am on the “top” side of the time-line of human life…I am finally beginning to have a better understanding of my 13 year olds’ dilemma- in that long ago eighth grade social studies class.

Everyone now (especially in their 30’s and 40’s) looks like they are in their twenties to me…specifically when I look at young doctors….I keep seeing little “Opies” talking back to me….are they old enough to have finished high school…much less medical school?

Time is sly and tricky to the human eye.

…So when I came across this adorable little story (“The Plum Pretty Sister”- Cynthia Brian) in Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul…I had to admire the mother’s creativity in teaching time to a three-year-old…using an old plum tree.

Cynthia tells the story about her little son, Justin, (at the time) and how from toddler-hood on…was quite a climber…She found him climbing trees, the roof..a little monkey for sure.

But his favorite tree…was the plum tree…especially when the plums turned purple and he could grab his pail, climb up the branches, until he could fill it with deep purple plums…his favorite.

When he was three his mother told him she was expecting another baby. Justin was too excited and proclaimed to one and all that the baby was going to be a little sister. Since he was three…he wanted the baby to come out and play with him right then…every day.

Telling Justin that the baby wasn’t due until June…was no help at all. “What is June?” and “When will it get here?” Justin repeatedly asked.

One day mom had an epiphany while watching Justin climbing in the purple plum tree.

Come here Justin” and I will let you know when the baby is coming.” Excited the three-year-old scampered down and asked “When…right now?

No…but the baby will come when the plums turn purple and ripen…when they are ready to eat…but not before then.”

Justin began checking the tree at least three times a day and worried when the weather turned cold that the baby would be cold in the tree too. He would talk and encourage the baby in his mommy’s tummy to be strong and stay warm.

By February some purple leaves began to shoot forth and March brought beautiful tiny white flowers. Justin was overjoyed.

The baby is b’ooming Mommy” he would proudly proclaim each time he checked the tree…and the baby was…moving and kicking away now.

Every time Justin caught his mother drinking a glass of water he would say,  “You’re watering our little flower, Mommy?”

When June arrived…so did the purple plums…but they were small and not quite ripe yet…not enough to eat. Mom wasn’t sure the baby could wait much longer for them to ripen.

Then one day Justin told his mommy that the baby was coming…the plums were ripe and his face was covered in purple juice.

That very day…the ‘plum’ baby arrived. She was beautiful and Justin wanted to name her Purple Plum. It ended up with another selection, Heather, but the date, June 22, became known as the “Plum Pretty Sister Day” in the family.

It turned out that the ‘plum pretty sister’ was a climber too and she and Justin spent most of their childhood up in the purple plum tree playing together.

Quite strangely (before the family moved) for the next fifteen years..the purple plum ripened, each year, exactly… on June 22. A double wink from God and Mother Nature.


So until tomorrow…Let us remember that in God’s World…past, present, and future are all one…with Him.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*I stopped by Lassie’s to drop off her mum and another little “funny” gift for her yesterday morning. She told me she already had my gift and wanted to go on and give it to me.








Isn’t my little pink, white, and silver angel adorable? (She looks like Pippy Longstockings …with pink and white striped stockings.) I am still thinking of a cute name for her…but you can rest assured she will ‘fly’ with us October 17 for the Race for the Cure. Thank you so much Lassie…I adore her!

Anne stopped by Friday evening to pick up some materials and we walked out to the garden….it never ceases to amaze me how we each “see” different things at the same time… and come away with a different “take” on it. The garden through Anne’s eyes at sunset. (Do you see the very beginning of the crescent moon in the first photo?)






Many eyes and many perspectives make up life.

*Isn’t leaving your Iphone charger a mini-disaster? I left mine at Edisto and sweet Brookie sent it Friday overnight I think…because it arrived yesterday just in time to take some garden shots. Brookie sent this little dittie:

Ode to the Charger

You are the one I can not live without

You are quiet and humble, without a doubt!

In fact so much so that I forget you are there

And so when I leave…you stay put

And hide from me…I do believe! 



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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