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When a pear tree is not a pear tree

I have several apple trees in my front yard. Technically speaking, they’re not apple trees at all; they are pear trees. They produce pears, not apples – but trust me, they are apple trees. I planted them. I watered them. I grew them. I know exactly what they are; they are apple trees.

Sometime around 1960, way out in west Texas, my mom and dad got married. Newlyweds do lots of things. They figure out how to live in close proximity to another living breathing human being. They also, if it’s going to be a good marriage, spend a lot of time looking 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 grandmother’s 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 homemade 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 grandmother’s 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 kind person – began to laugh.

She laughed out loud and said, “Betty … you will NEVER be able to make my apple pie.” My mother was taken aback by this response. My grandmother continued, pausing 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 chestnut 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 passed, and eventually she passed too.

So I planted that tree out front, and here’s the deal: Sometimes a pear tree is not a pear tree at all; it’s an apple tree.

It’s an apple tree because it’s keeping alive a story of family, of newlyweds, of laughter, of love, of a little white lie about a much-loved grandmother’s pie.

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 back to life for me.

They aren’t gone; they live in those apples.

 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 an apple pie. Anybody want some apple pie?

Rockin’ Eco Hero Steve Trash tours the planet teaching children about their connection to nature through magic, music and comedy. He has his own PBS Kids science show called STEVE TRASH SCIENCE. He lives with his wife and dogs in Frog Pond. For more visit www.stevetrash.com.

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