"Grandma, what's the story behind that pear tree over there?" I ask, as I put my arm underneath hers to assist her while we made our way uphill.
"Where?" She says, stopping midway to look around.
"Right over there, Grandma," I tell her, pointing to the right of us.
She looks, eyes squinting through her oval glasses’ frames, before she locates the tree. "My, oh my," she breathes, "it's still here."
"What do you mean?" I inquire, perplexed.
She turns back to peer up at me, and pats my hand, "Why, honey, that's the tree my Daddy planted for my Mama back in the day.”
“Wow, really?” I question, my gaze returning to the tree. “That’s amazing,” I assert, before my brows furrow in thought, “but, Grandma, are you saying your parents lived here? Does that mean you lived here when you were a little girl?”
“Yes, indeed,” she answered, pride and affection flooding her voice.
“How did I not know this?” I ponder under my breath, my senses sharpening to take in our lush surroundings.
We had just entered August, and everything was green. The grass, the treetops, and at our current elevation, every hill in sight. It was beautiful up here, the sun burned brightly in the azure sky and the wind had no qualms about ruffling through my hair.
A smile claimed my lips as I inhaled, taking it all in. It must’ve been something else to live in such a scenic place. It even smelled good, like pine and fresh rain.
I’m pulled from my thoughts as I feel a gentle tug on my arm, “Let’s make a small detour over there, dear.”
“Okay,” I readily reply, my feet quick to follow her lead toward the tree.
As we stroll closer, she begins to recount things from her childhood, “Do you see that large brown rock right there?”
I follow her gesturing hand, and stare out into the forest, “Um, maybe?” Unsure if I’m really seeing anything beneath the foliage.
“I once fell asleep behind it when I was playing hide-and-seek as a child,” she confesses with a laugh, “Daddy was not pleased that my older siblings had lost me; but once he’d found me, he was too relieved to stay upset with us.”
“How long were you missing?” I venture to ask.
“Probably an hour or so,” she responds with a slight smile, “they’d have found me sooner if I hadn’t fallen asleep, they were apparently hollerin’ so loud the neighbors could hear.”
A giggle escapes my lips, “Oh my…”
“Yes, it was quite a commotion,” she affirms, cackling, before changing anecdotes. “Down there,” she points toward the bottom of some hillside, “was where we’d walk with Mama to do the wash in the creek. We also made trips to bring water to the house for cookin’ and such.”
She stares out there for a long second, like she’s seeing the path she used to walk along, “Those buckets were mighty heavy too,” she pauses a moment to rub her at wrists. “Whew! How glad I am that those days are over,” she exclaims with glee.
I laugh at her enthusiasm, “Yeah, things have changed a lot.”
As we make our way closer, I notice another pear tree by the forests’ edge, much unlike the placement of the one we were walking toward.
“Grandma,” I can’t help myself from asking, “is there a reason why this tree is planted in the middle of the meadow, instead of being closer to the tree line like that other pear tree?”
“Ahh, yes, of course there is, dear.” She grins conspiratorially, “Let me tell you a story. My Mama always liked to look at those fancy magazines at the Grocers in town, and in one of them, she saw a layout of a garden patio with trees at the center. She loved it so much, that she got it in her head that she wanted one and told Daddy. He could never tell Mama no, he loved her so much,” her eyes gleamed at the admission, “so when he added on a front porch, he left a hole to plant a tree so she could have her patio. This,” she waves a hand toward the tree, “is what he planted for her.”
“Are you serious?” I ask, in awe at the prospect. “That’s so romantic.”
“Yes, it was,” she confirms with a soft smile.
As we finally reach our destination, we come to a stop in front of the tree.
“But what’d they do about the height?” I can’t help but wonder, tilting my head back to look up at its tall stature.
“They’d made a hole in the roof too,” she declares, beaming with pleasure.
My mouth drops open in shock, “How unbelievably amazing.”
“Mama was overjoyed,” she says, reaching out a hand to touch some of the fruit.
The tree appeared to be heavy laden with pears, so much so that some of the branches bowed under the weight. I heard a sigh beside me and turned to look at my Grandma inquisitively.
Her face had transformed to a look of contentment, “I never seen it have this much fruit on it, there was only a few pears here and there before I married and moved away. Mama would’ve been so happy to see it like this.”
I notice a sheen of tears glaze her eyes, “Are you alright, Grandma?”
“Yes, dear,” she looks over at me, “it’s just… she never got to see fruit grow on this tree before she passed on.” Silence permeates the air for a few seconds before she quietly adds, “She was taken far too soon.”
“I’m so sorry.” I felt my own tears well up.
“Oh, honey, you don’t have to cry,” she says, grabbing my hand comfortingly, “she’s in a better place now, and I know I’ll most assuredly see her again.”
I wipe at the corner of my eye, “What happened to her, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well,” she begins, taking a deep breath, “she had just given birth to my youngest brother, and afterwards there were some complications… They couldn’t get the bleeding to stop from the birth, and there wasn’t much you could do for those kind of things back then.”
She trailed off a moment, as a tear made it’s way down her cheek, “I’m just grateful I got to go upstairs and tell her goodbye, even if I didn’t fully understand what was goin’ on… I was so young, you know.” A faraway look glazed her eyes, “But I’ve never forgotten, Daddy bringing me back down to the kitchen and giving me a treat, and while it tasted mighty fine, when I looked back up at him, he had the biggest tears I’d ever seen streaming down his face.” A bittersweet smile clung to her lips, “He loved Mama very much.”
Tears trinkled down my cheeks, “That’s incredibly sad.”
“Yes,” she acknowledges with a nod, “it is. But I know both my parents wouldn’t have changed it for the world.” She gives me a wistful smile, “Because they had ten wonderful years together, along with five children they loved beyond measure. That’s why we must treasure what we have when we have it, for we don’t know how long we will be able to keep it in our earthly grasp.”
“You are very wise, Grandma,” I tell her through a watery laugh.
She chuckles, “I have lived through many things, and have found change to be inevitable; but there are things that will always remain steadfast,” she lifts her hand to cradle my cheek and swipe away a tear with her thumb, “and two of those things are love, and family.”
I place my hand over hers, giving it a squeeze, “I love you, Grandma.”
“I love you too, dear,” she gives a soft pat on my face and turns to the tree one final time.
As I wait, I let my eyes roam the varying shades of green adorning the tree, then suddenly realize I never actually asked why we came here today, “You never did tell me, why are we here?”
“Ah,” she exhaled, “I wondered when you’d ask. I came to visit my parents graves, they’re buried over yonder,” she points back to the way we’d came, “it’s been a long while since I’d made my way over here and figured I could use some help navigating my way through all these hills.”
“I see,” a slight smile quirking my lips.
“Well, we best be gettin’ on,” she says, giving one last lingering look to the pear tree before turning around, ready to make her way over to the plot across the way.
My gaze stays fixed on the pear tree a few seconds longer and I think about the deep, unfathomable emotions connected to its existence. My fingers trace over a few pears, feeling their roughly smooth texture, as I lose myself in thought.
“What’s keepin’ you,” she suddenly asks, probably realizing I had yet to move.
“Oh, sorry,” I say, startled from my reverie, “I was just thinking…” I smile widely at her before sharing my revelation, “I mean, look at this tree,” I gesture with a sweep of my hand, “the fruit of their love still lives on.”
Her eyes flitter from me to the tree behind me, as a soft smile forms her lips, “Yes, that’s a lovely way to view it.”
“I think,” I begin hesitantly, “I’m gonna take three of these pears with me… as long as you don’t think Mr. Holloway won’t mind.”
“No,” she shakes her head, “I don’t think he will. But why do you need them?”
I grin, “I’m gonna leave two on your mom and dad’s graves, so they know that the seeds they planted have come to fruition…”
She blinks, her eyes turning misty, “That’s a nice thought, dear.”
“As for the last one,” I continue, beginning to pull off three pears one-by-one, before turning back to her with an even wider grin, “I think I’m gonna plant me a pear tree.”