The Pears of Lives Past

by Scott Smith

The very first house I owned as an adult was in Wabash, Indiana. It was built just before the Great Depression and had been quickly sectioned off to make the upstairs a rentable apartment. We were the first people to own it not direct descendants of the original builders. The house and yard were a mess but there were a couple of fruit trees. There was a Transparent Apple that was a prolific producer in spite of much neglect from previous tenants and no care from me. I was too ignorant to appreciate what I had until I described the early drop of the apples, overripe in late July and the mushy texture to an elderly woman at Garden Club. She explained to me that what I had was an heirloom, a treasure that not many were graced with anymore. Of course, the next year, when I was ready for a harvest the tree produced nothing as if to spite me for my inability to appreciate her goodness. The year after that we (Madeleine on my hip, Coleman in the womb) were off to Indianapolis.

The greatest treasure that yard contained, in my opinion, was a pear tree that most people would have cut down. Most of the trunk was rotted. I remember examining it to see what was keeping the top alive and found a section of the trunk that was about an inch or 2 in diameter. That tree wanted to live. We left it alone and were rewarded with the most delicious pears I have ever tasted in my life. They were tart and sweet and rich with a texture like butter and the juice ran down your chin no matter how neatly you tried to eat them. Even canned they retained that indescribable sweet-tartness that I’ve never found a match for. That was about 15 years ago and my mouth still waters when I think about them. Of course, there was no one to tell me what variety of Pear that was and while I look through catalog offerings of all manner of heirloom pears, I know I will never find the right one.

We have a pear tree here that produces like a trooper, but it cannot satisfy my desire for a truly delicious pear. The texture is grainier, the flavor is watered down… They are merely adequate. I want something spectacular.