Saturday, 31 August 2013

Ap-pear-ently ... it’s September.

I was visiting my friend the other day. She had bowls of pears sitting on her counter, ready for canning. Immediately, I was carried back in memory to my childhood.

As soon as I began writing about pears, I just had to create an appropriate image in cloth.

I grew up as a child of immigrants. Money was always tight, but hearts were generous. Many of the folks in our community lived on farms and gladly shared excess produce with each other. When Mrs. V.phoned in September, it could only mean one thing: the pears were ready. These were special pears – probably an heirloom variety that we never see anymore. They were ugly, hard and tasteless, but when stewed for hours, they turned a delicate pink and tasted delicious. In a 4 star restaurant these days, a bowl of those \pears would probably cost a mint. Imagine the menu description: compote de anciennes poires rose – “succulent heritage pears slowly simmered to a rosy hue, glazed with a reduction of its own flavourful juices”. You take a bite, and yes, it’s yummy. It tastes just like mom used to make.

Pears also remind me of the very first day of school. The school was a one-room schoolhouse accommodating 30 or 40 children in grades one through eight. I was so excited finally to be going to that wonderful place! My mom had knit me a brand new sweater, and even though it was warm that day, I insisted on wearing it. I felt beautiful.

My most vivid memory of that first day is of recess. A large fenced-in yard ringed with old trees – maples, firs, and a loaded pear tree – was our playground.  Of course, the older boys were up that pear tree in a shot (no such thing as playground supervision back then) and began lobbing pears at random, hoping to hit someone. Of course, they hit me, and rotten pear mush splattered my brand-new sweater. Of course, I cried. And of course, the older kids gathered round and told me to quit being a baby and not to tattle. This was the first lesson I learned at school: big kids rule.

Fast forward to another first day of school. Now I am going into 9th grade in high school. I’m going from a 3 room school with about 100 kids to a mega-school. There are seven sections of 9th grade alone. And lockers!!!! I’d never before had a locker, and had no idea about the protocol. Lockers 101 was not offered. So, dressed in my very best home-made back-to-school outfit, I walked into those hallowed halls swarming with kids, every last one of them way cooler than me. I was carrying a bulky 3 ring zippered binder, topped with every text book I’d brought along for the 7 or 8 classes I would take that day, and perched on top of that, my lunch in a brown paper sack. (Backpacks had not been invented yet back in those dark days of pre-history.) I lugged my burden from class to class, the paper sack squished between my chest and the books every time we moved down the halls to another class. Mom had packed a  pear in my lunch – not the heritage kind, but soft and ripe -- and again, I was wearing eau-de-pear before lunch time arrived. That day, thanks to a kindly older student, I learned another lesson: that lockers were for keeping extra textbooks and lunches safe until you needed them. Duh.


Fortunately, not every memory of the first day of school is a bad one tinged with pear juice. We were visiting our son and family when our oldest grand-daughter Karina began Kindergarten.  I had the great privilege of taking her to school for her first ‘meet the teacher” date. It was all good for her: riding in Opa’s truck, being by herself with Oma, going to school to meet her teacher. “This is fun,” she chattered. “You should come back next year and I will go with you again for my first day of school.” I made a little square to commemorate that day, and when I look at it now, I feel nostalgic. (I also feel embarrassed, realizing how I much I still had to learn about quilting!)

Sadly, five years have gone by since then. Happily, we
will be visiting with Karina and her family for the first day of school this year. Maybe the kids will be carrying pears ... in their backpacks.

When we arrived at her house, Karina was wearing a T-shirt that proclaims "Oui! Oui! J'aime Pearis!"

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