Of Pears and Pomegranates
We stood in the sandy soil of my mother’s Ohoopee garden and admired the fruits hanging from two trees. On one side, a pear tree’s branches were loaded down with plump pears — too many for any one person to consume in a year. On the other side, weird, wonderful pomegranates clung to the limbs of another tree, much like dangly earrings hanging on ear lobes.
My nephew’s three children ran wild in the garden around us, and we motioned for them to stop for a minute.
“Will one of you help us pick some pears?” I asked.
The middle child, Andrew, volunteered and walked over to the fence line with Mom and me. We cautioned him about watching out for yellow jackets feasting on the fallen fruits on the ground. Then Mom gave him a demonstration.
“Gently twist it, then pull. Don’t jerk it off, or other pears will fall off, too,” she said. “And if it has a hole in it, just toss it aside.” Andrew listened and helped us fill two large plastic bags with the greenish gold fruits.
While we worked, I reminisced about two ancient pear trees that once stood on the property line at my Grandmother Jarriel’s house. I remembered being Andrew’s age and picking a pear along with my cousins before taking a bite in the autumn sunshine. I think Grandmother called them sand pears, and they made some of the best pear preserves ever — the pear preserves that we spooned into buttery biscuits and devoured at breakfast time in Grandmother’s kitchen. Those are the pear preserves of my people — of my dreams. A few minutes later, we gathered underneath the pomegranate tree. I call it “Johnny’s Pomegranate Tree” because in the years before my stepfather died, if I visited in the fall, he always made sure I left with at least one pomegranate in my hand. He called them “plum grannies,” which is technically incorrect, though many Southerners refer to the fruit in that way. “What are those things?”
Lawson asked, pointing to one of the crimson and gold fruits. “Those are Johnny’s pomegranates,” I replied. “They’re a fruit with sweet and tart seeds inside that are a little hard to eat. But it’s worth it, because continued from page
pomegranates always make the superfood list.”
“What’s a superfood?” he asked.
“Well, it’s a food that is rich in vitamins, minerals and has lots of good stuff that offer benefits to a person’s health,” I said.
Mom allowed the three kids to each pluck one pomegranate from the tree to take home with them. I plucked two. I held them in my hands and thought about the saplings my stepfather had given to me and my sister in the last decade of his life. My sapling grew for a couple of years, but as happens sometimes, it died a mysterious death. In the months before Johnny passed away, he had vowed to dig up another sapling for me so I could try again.
Over the fence, I saw the large fig tree on the other side of the yard. Being a summertime fruit, the figs are gone now. Mom said that the birds got most of them this year.
Pears. Pomegranates. Figs. Persimmons. Pawpaws. They are fruits that have thrived in Georgia’s heat and humidity for generations and generations. There was a time when everyone had at least one of these trees in their yards, but today, these fruits are rather uncommon, and in some areas of Georgia, they are unknown. Still, their fruits are delicious and continue to bind us to another time and place. Each bite is a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the simplest of moments — old and new.