When I was thirteen, my sister called me and said that she had something to tell me.
She had recently found someone to haul the old trailer off of the property at our cottage on Lake Erie. I had been apprehensive about this from the beginning because it stood right next to our pear tree.
The pear tree on our property was quite old. It was planted by my great grandmother when my grandparents first purchased the property some sixty years earlier. I had so many memories of my grandfather, Morfar, and I underneath the pear tree, picking pears and eating them together after he peeled them for me with the knife that he always kept in his pocket. Every year, my Mormor and Morfar entered them into the county fair fruit competition, and every year they were proclaimed the most delicious pears that had been entered.
But back to thirteen. My Morfar’s Parkinson’s disease had taken a turn for the worse that year. I was already worried that we wouldn’t be picking pears together again.
And I knew as soon as I answered the phone that my fears were not unfounded. My sister told me that the tree, old and rotting from the inside, had been pulled down when they hooked up the trailer and dragged it out. It didn’t make it. It was lying on a heap on the ground. There would be no chance of pears ever again.
Needless to say, I was devastated. Heartbroken. In complete disbelief. I was angry at my sister for allowing such careless people to take away the old trailer. I was angry at the tree for being old and not strong enough to withstand the blow.
I watched later that spring as the tree was cut into pieces and hauled away. I cried. I kept several branches and willed them to take root in buckets of water on our back porch.
But it didn’t work. The pears were gone.
Months later, I turned fourteen. I had not forgotten about the pear tree, but my attempts to bring it back to life had been unsuccessful and I could see no way that I would be able to have my great-grandmothers pears again. I had given up, accepted the loss for what it was and grieved appropriately. It was over.
And it was my birthday. My sister told me to get into her car, because we were going to go on a drive. I figured we were going yard-saling, a regular pastime for our family. But we were driving further than we usually did. I asked her where we were going, and she just kept telling me that I’d find out soon.
We pulled up in front of a greenhouse, and I was deeply confused.
I wanted to know what we were getting there. She wouldn’t tell me. Just smiled and laughed.
We walked into the entrance and stood around a little bit. Many minutes later, a man that worked there came from the back with a small tree in a wagon. Mom was standing next to it, smiling. I was still confused. I walked around the tree a few times, trying to figure out what it was.
“This is your birthday present, Mary,” my Mom said. “It’s from your grandparents.” And then the realization hit me. I was standing in front of a new pear tree.
I was handed a card. Inside, it said:
Hope you harvest lots of pears. Each bite remember us.
Love, Mormor and Morfar.
It’s been over ten years since that afternoon in the greenhouse, and my pear tree is more fruitful than ever. My grandparents both passed away a few years after I got it, but my grandmother got her wish. I harvest a lot of pears.
So many, in fact, that I have a hard time figuring out what to do with them. When I worked in an office, I used to bring boxes of them in and leave them in the copy room with a big “free to a good home” sign on them. I’ve always had dreams of turning them into pear cider and pear sauce, of canning it so that I’ll be able to enjoy the taste of pears all throughout the next year until I can harvest another batch the following fall. But it’s a time consuming process, and I’ve never felt like I’ve had enough time.
But the trick about time is that you just have to make it. You have to block off a place in your schedule and do what you want to do. And so this year, I took some time, and cut up dozens and dozens of pears and put them into a pot. I cooked them down with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves and vanilla and I put them through a ricer. And then, with the help of my mom, I canned six jars of pear sauce, and now I will finally be able to enjoy my pears year round.
And yes, each time I have a bite, I do remember my grandparents, my Mormor and my Morfar. And I remember the gift that they gave me the year I turned fourteen.