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The Perfect Pear Tree

by Marie McGrath Davis 3 months ago in Short Story · updated 3 months ago

and the pair of us

A few windfalls await the horses coming in from pasture...

The Perfect Pear Tree

“It’s a half parcel of the Goetz farm land, 51 acres,” I heard someone say to my father, outside the car in which my mother and I were sitting. She looked back at me, giving me that look of disgust with which I was so familiar (and feared), this time accompanied by a head shake of annoyance.

“He’s as well ravin’ there as in his bed,” she pronounced, as always exasperated by this latest in my father’s many projects. “I’ll not live out here. What have you to say?” she asked me.

My mother well knew that I’d wanted to live in the country, on a farm, my entire life. Now, at 17, I wanted it even more. I inherited this gene from my father, apparently, for my mother and all hers were city folk. Mind you, they were city folk in another country, just as my father and his were country folk – and very poor with it – in another country. When we moved from Ireland to Canada, it was move enough, my mother said. And, I couldn’t blame her, as she’d left everyone and everything she’d ever known behind, other than me and my father, back in Belfast. She’d never settled in Canada, but she’d made a home in the small town where we’d lived since our arrival from Ireland.

As much as my mother hated change, my father sought it out. He was never without a project, and none of the usual sort. He had to learn to fly, then get a plane with some friends; when that novelty wore off, he imported an Irish Wolfhound pup from Ireland, made him the son he’d never had and hit the show circuit. Awards won, point proved, end of project. There was a trailer and a cottage in the interim years and, now, finally he’d got to country living. I was thrilled but, ever loyal, and indulgent of my mother, I kept that to myself as best I could.

From the back seat, I ran my eyes across the existing property. The barn was caved in entirely, so would have to be torn down. There went the hope of having all the animals I wanted to rescue. The house wasn’t much better from my vantage point. At least it was intact, standing with one of those yawning covered porches old farmhouses tend to have. There was a wee building, I came to learn later was the smokehouse, though it had long ago ceased to be used for smoking meat (the vegan in me was relieved). What drew me to it was that it had been painted white, and festooned with flowers and peace signs in vibrant colors. It read, as you’d expect, “Peace”, “Love” and a lone “Innagoddadaavida” (spelled thus) across the door. It would help if you knew that the year was 1971 and, even in Canada, there was a bit of a hippie commune culture.

In fact, at the time, Mr. Goetz, the owner was renting the buildings out to a group of university students. The reason for this was complicated and sad, and would need its own story to do it justice. I can, however, relate that both his wife and daughter had died within six months of each other and he could no longer bear to live in the house. It had been rented out for the past 10 years. He was finally willing to sell. The other 50 acres of the parcel he’d sold already to a neighbor, a dairy farmer and, now, he was prepared to part with the rest.

My father and he had done a long walk around the land closest to the house. It spread out as far as the eye could see in every direction, punctuated only by the tiniest, chubbiest, wee trees here and there. Some were close together, as if in conversation, while others stood independently as if to indicate they’d no interest in bothersome neighbors or cross-pollination.

“Can you imagine what the inside of thon is like?” my mother asked me, tilting her head towards the intact, yet saggy house. “There’ll be no electricity from the looks of it. Can you see hydro wires?” I ran my eyes from the house down toward the road from which we’d come, but saw only the trees in their casual arrangement, looking for all the world like they’d come for a family get-together. I was about to answer that, no, I saw no hint of hydro, when a crow flew out from behind one of the wee leafy trees and I saw a wire spring up as his claws let go their grip. “There,” I pointed to him. “It looks like wires back behind those trees.”

My mother loved crows, always feeling sorry for them because everyone else treated them badly. This gene I inherited from my mother. Perhaps seeing the crow just then melted some of the icy reserve she felt for the whole idea of rural life. As she continued to look in that direction, she straightened in her seat and began to study the view, with some interest.

“Those trees, all of them, are fruit trees, I’m thinking,” said she.

“Aye,” I agreed, not knowing a fruit tree from a fruit bat but it seemed wise to agree. “I’m away to take a look,” she announced, and she was out of the car, me trailing after her in hopes that something great - that would change her opinion of farm life - was about to happen.

My father was doing a house inspection with the owner, meeting the renters, some of whom I recognized from university. They were quite a bit older than me, and didn’t look particularly academic at the moment, so I suspected they were taking their time, growing their share of crops to ease the strain of graduate studies. I didn’t want to be recognized, but knew there was small chance of that. I have always had the need and, as such, developed the ability, to be essentially invisible in crowds. I had no great interest in other people or social contact and this, you may infer, was a major factor in my wanting to live the country life.

When I caught up to my mother who, for only being 4’ 11” tall, could fairly hoof it when she wanted, she was in an uncharacteristically good mood.

“Have a glake at these,” she said to me. (I’ll translate that, in Northern Ireland, ‘glake’ is ‘look’ as in ‘have a look at these’.) I looked and remarked, “I know, they’re wee and stout like wee mountainy men”, an allusion to another Irish character. “They are,” she laughed, “but look at the fruit on them. They’re loaded, the lot of them. At least these ones are.”

I looked some more, noticing that their branches were struggling under the weight of all the apples. And not one type of apple looked like another. We picked a few that we could reach and tasted them. They were apples, all right, but tasted nothing like any we bought in stores. Some tasted like crosses of different kinds. One that looked exactly like a Granny Smith tasted like a MacIntosh that had had cinnamon injected. Glorious.

This marvelous discovery (I was already packing my bags for our move to set down rural roots) inspired my mother to make her way around all the trees that bordered the house and barn. Every single tree had a somewhat different tasting apple. Different colors. Different textures. Different worm holes. Oh yes, they weren’t pristine these apples. My mother said they’d likely never been sprayed. That meant nothing to me then, but does now. They were pure, organic, and embraced by nature.

I was trying to reach an apple in another trio of trees, positioned as if one were lecturing the other two. I could just hear the two smaller trees muttering under their respective breaths about the situation and, just as I was about to tell my mother, she said it herself. This led to roars of laughter, the kind where it’s about something silly and the more you realize how silly it is the funnier it is. Mid-laugh, I saw a few of the fruits on the ground, feeding wasps. Not one to be afraid of wasps, I went to examine and turned one over, only to realize that it was a pear. The smell of it was near ambrosial, the likes of which had never before acquainted itself with my nostrils.

We wanted to try one minus the wasps, but the branches we could reach had already been stripped of fruit. However, these trees (in fact, all the trees) were climbers, and I loved climbing trees. I was up and plucking within 30 seconds. I flung a few at my mother, whose immediate response was, “Hi, watch where you’re cloddin’ thon!” I tucked a few between my shirt and waistband and climbed back down.

“These are delectable. Fabulous,” my mother confirmed. I was a bit surprised because she was never a pear fan, describing their usual flavor as reminiscent of a stale apple wearing a dirty nappy. But right she was. They were truly and utterly delicious.

I don’t know what transpired between my gung-ho farmer wannabe father and my farm-phobic mother, but some sort of arrangement was struck and we got the 51 acre parcel, intending to leave the house and barn as they were and use it on weekends. I was a tad sad that I couldn’t rescue animals or have a horse and MORE dogs only on weekends, but it was still a wonderful plan.

Now, 50 years later, as I am picking pears from the bossy pear tree, having lived here for nearly that many years, I think of my mother and me, and how excited we were at our discovery of these fruit trees I came to learn were heritage apples and pears. And, no, never have they been touched with pesticide or anything but Mother Nature. They are all still the same height as they were 50 years ago, though I’m shorter and admit my climbing days are over.

Of all the trees, the pear trees are my favorite. They are full every year and every pear is as perfect and tasty as those my mother and I tried back when. Of the pear trees however, the smallest one – the one I believe to be shy like me – is my favorite. And that’s why, through the many years that have passed, it is this tree that marks the burial spot of all my beloved dogs and cats, a few chipmunks and squirrels, my wee rabbit and pet hens.

This spot is sacrosanct. All my treasures are here. My animals, waiting for me to join them some day; my memory of my mother and me together here in this very spot. I like to think that it was this glorious pear tree that changed her mind about living in the country, as we did – fulltime – a few years after that first visit. There isn’t a day or a time I don’t cry when I visit the pear trees.

My rescue horses especially love the pear trees, and help themselves over the fence to those they can reach on the lower branches, then wait for me to shake some more to them. I collect the windfall pears, and as many apples as possible, and leave them in the barn or the smoke house (now minus the peace sign) for animal treats through the colder weather.

This memory of my mother and me, a pair among the pears, carries me through each summer and fall, more poignant and clear as the years begin to fade into one. One day, perhaps not too long from now, I will tuck a few pears into my waistband, and deliver them in person to my mother. She and I will enjoy them again, along with those of my horses who are waiting for me…just over there.

Short Story

Marie McGrath Davis

Old vegan, animal-rescuing, ex-corporate communicator with lifelong crippling shyness that made expressing myself verbally near impossible.So I took my weirdness to paper, then to typewriter and, now, to computer screen. I write all wrong.

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