Sunday, August 11, 2019

APPLE TREES AND APPLE PIES





This is a picture of an apple.  Well, several apples actually.  I know, I know, they LOOK like pears, but trust me, they’re apples.  I grew them.  I know exactly what they are.  Trust me.  They are apples.  Eight years ago I planted the tree that grew them in my front yard.  They’re apples.  

Sometime around 1960, my Mom and Dad married.  Newlyweds do lots of things.  But mostly, they figure out how to live in really close proximity to a person they don’t know very well and they look for ways to make their new partner’s life better.  My newlywed Mom decided she’d try to cook “just like my dad's mom”.  She asked my dad, “What was the favorite thing your mom cooked for you?”  He thought a moment, and responded, “You know, Mama used to bake the most amazing apple pie.  I’d love to have that again.  I haven’t had it since I was a kid. Could you try and bake that?” 

Challenge accepted.  My Mom dove right in to making my Grandmothers’ excellent apple pie for her newlywed husband.  Now, apple pie (made from scratch) is pretty simple.  It’s time-consuming but it’s not hard to make.  Easy win, or so my Mom thought.  She got everything together to bake a “home-made” apple pie for her new husband.  She mixed.  She baked.  She served.  She waited.  My dad’s response?  “Oh this is really good apple pie, Honey, but it’s not as good as my Mom’s apple pie.”  My Mom thought, “Rats… I’ll try again”.  So she did.  Same result.  Good, but not as good as my Grandmothers’ apple pie.  One more try.  Same result.  Good, but not as good. 

Frustrated, my Mom took the problem straight to the source.  She phoned my grandmother up and said, “I’m trying to make your special apple pie for Will, but I just can’t seem to get it right.  Did you have some kind of “secret ingredient” or “bake it in some special way”?   My grandmother (a gentle and very very kind person) began to laugh.  She laughed out loud.  She said, “Betty… you will NEVER be able to make my apple pie.”  My mother was taken-a-back by this response.  My grandmother continued, she paused to catch her breath, "Because I never used apples.  I used pears.  Years and years ago, a traveling salesman broke a wheel near our home, we fixed it for him, and he paid us back with pear tree saplings.  When Wilbur (pronounced Wil-Bu if you’re from south Alabama) was a boy, he didn’t like pears.  He wouldn’t eat pears, but I didn’t have anything but pears to bake pies with, so I told him a little tiny “white lie”.  I told him the pear pie was an apple pie.   He loved those pies. I never had the heart to tell him otherwise.”  

Years and years passed, as did (eventually) my dad.  And my mother would dust-off this old family story from her mental filing cabinet of happy memories and share it with us kids.  We’d all get a great laugh out of it too.  She loved telling that story, and she was good at it. 

More years and years passed, and eventually she passed too. 

Sometimes a pear tree is not a pear tree at all, it’s an apple tree.  It’s an apple tree that is keeping alive a story about real people that lived their lives the best they could, about family mythology, about newlywed bonds strengthened, about laughter, love, a little white lie, and a much loved Grandmothers’ pie.  

So… every time I walk past that pear tree in my front yard nowadays… those people, that story, that love, that laughter, that history, that moment in time, all come to life for me.  

So, to me, it’s always going to be an apple tree, it can’t be anything else.  Know what?  I think I’ll go bake a pie.   Want some apple pie?


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