The Pear Tree
Climbing the pear tree was part of the fun. The approach was tricky because, in my childhood Pennsylvania neighborhood, there were no fences. The height of the grass distinguished one property from the other. You were in constant view.
A four-block radius was my playground in our east Jermyn neighborhood, Over the Lane. During the summer when the neighborhood garden patches began to yield lip-smacking fruits, we played RAID! We’d spread out and conquer, meeting back at the large maple tree on the corner to divide the spoils. Strawberries were scarce, therefore coveted. Rhubarb was plentiful, and, store-bought tomatoes don’t compare with biting into a juicy tomato off the vine, warm from the sun. And the pears, those mouthwatering pears!
The pear tree belonged to the Onufraks, across the street and two houses down from where I lived. The Onufraks were a sweet elderly couple, whose grandkids came to visit from New York, and we all played kickball together. Next to the pear tree, was an outhouse and when we saw Mr. Onufrak walk back into the house, we knew the coast would be clear for long enough to raid the pears.
An earlier scan of the yard didn’t show any pears on the ground, there rarely were, so off we went to conquer the tree. It was best to have someone with you to act as a lookout and to catch the fruit that you’d shake from the limbs. One day I was shaking the limbs and Barbara was picking the fruit as it fell. Mrs. Onufrak appeared out of nowhere.
“Do you like my pears?” she asked waving her cane in the air toward the tree.
We knew better than to lie, and since I couldn’t imagine how to explain why I was up in the tree, I answered, “Yes, ma'am.”
“Well, I can’t have children breaking the branches! You, up there, come down before you fall and break your leg.”
I swung from the lowest branch and landed on both feet–a perfect ten had it been a competition.
“Now, wait here,” Mrs. Onufrak said sternly.
Mrs. Onufrak walked to the shed and emerged carrying a long stick with a wire basket on the end.
“See, if you use this pole, you can reach all the way to the top. Put the wire basket under the pear and tug, the prongs will pull the pear from the branch nicely and won’t bruise the fruit. And, you don’t have to climb the tree.” She handed the pole to me.
“All I ask is that you pick the ones that are a little yellow like this one, pick a couple for me and set them on the bench next to the kitchen door. And be sure to return the pole to the shed, and close the door as you found it.” She pulled a handkerchief from her apron and blotted her damp forehead and smiled as she walked to the house.
We enjoyed the scrumptious pears for a few more summers. In the mid-sixties, the Onufraks hired a local contractor to build an indoor bathroom. They demolished the outhouse, and the next year the tree stopped producing the delicious fruit.
To this day I have yet to eat pears that duplicate the taste of those sweet, grainy, and juicy fruits.
The Pear Tree is based
on an actual event.
Word count: 553