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Pyrus calleryana

A story of coming home

By Sarahmarie Specht-BirdPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Pyrus calleryana
Photo by Michel Bosma on Unsplash

When I was eight, my sister became a pear tree. In the April sunlight her splayed arms grew gray-brown, and from her fingers unfurled shoots that became leaves and white flowers like china cups exploding into cotton.

I was there; I saw it happen. In the yard there was a pear tree, Pyrus calleryana, where there had not been the moment before. Its limbs took up space and cast a shadow on the front window. I walked outside and stood beneath the branches while the thick, sickly-sweet smell of blossom filled my nostrils and little fruits dropped to the ground below.

I collected the flowers as they floated from the tree. They drifted on light breezes like snow into my raised fingers.

In the darkness of the night, I woke from nightmares reaching for my sister. She had kept the demons at bay, but now she was not in the bed with me. She was in the yard, tossing shadows shaped like puppets into the room, the only offering her woody limbs could now make.

Days passed. Weeks. Months. The tree stood. I grew. I forgot the sound of her voice and the way she would tilt her head. One morning, I realized that I did not remember what color her hair had been. Soon enough, I forgot her name.

There was another pear tree in the yard of my boarding school. I sat beneath it staring upwards. The sickly spring smell of it chased everyone else away, but not me. I felt pulled to it, an ancient gravity calling me from dreams, a strange kind of home, and I did not resist.

Over time, I seemed to remember her more. I recalled a summer day in the garden behind the house, the angle of her elbow sitting at the table, the trickling laughter. I had not been back to see my sister-tree in years. It was beginning to feel like it was time.

The journey was odious, if not for the route then for the mental anguish. What would I find when I returned to that place, which had been a source of such joy followed by such torment? Along the way, trees bloomed, swaying as if in welcome as I came nearer and nearer my destination. I remembered. There was the pond, with its cattails. The bakery, with its huge chocolate cakes. The green traffic light and the bull painted on the side of a building. Then, there was the creek, the lane, and the house. Our house. With its little roof and its tree.

Where was the tree?

I stood staring at the drooping windows, marveling at the sunlight hitting the wood and glass. A door opened, and a woman walked towards me. She was tall, with long white-blond tresses. She was wearing an apron, and she looked like she had been expecting me. She smiled, a full-mouth, curling-lip smile, and she held out her arms to me. My sister.

I smelled her as she pulled me close. She smelled like kitchen, like dough and cooking, and just the faintest bit like pear blossom.

"How?" I began. "What—"

She put a finger over my lips as though to silence me. As though to stop me from letting the past tumble from out between them.

I began to feel a rootedness, a connection to what lay beneath the ground, what lay in the past and what lay before it. I felt the world shifting, turning slightly, becoming more solid. Flowers emerging from winter while limbs reached to the sky. A stiffening and a sense of overwhelming sunshine.

It is my arms that are filled with flowers now. It is my branches that turn skyward and cast puppet shadows on the wall of the bedroom while my sister sleeps. It is my blooms in the spring that cause that sickly-sweet, and my fruits which fall to the ground below to be eaten, or else to wither.

Short Story

About the Creator

Sarahmarie Specht-Bird

A writer, teacher, traveler, and long-distance hiker in pursuit of a life that blends them all. Read trail dispatches and adventure stories at my website.

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