"Save the Pear Trees!!"

@Copyrighted Story, June 2012. Isabelle Black Smith: All Rights Reserved.

“Save the Pear Trees!!" – Part 1 

We lived in an old house, in an older neighborhood, surrounded by really tall trees.  Then again, when you are only four years old perhaps all trees appear to be really tall?  The trees in my neighborhood were mostly Pecan, Walnut, Sycamore and Oak to the best of my recollection, but there were also many ornamentals in front yards and lining the sidewalk expanse of street-side yard owned by the city.  Along my street were rows of Pear trees.  The Pear trees in my neighborhood weren’t just ornamentals either; these trees actually bore fruit every summer.  I can still vividly recall the beautiful white blooms, the sweet smell of flowered essence, buzzing bees and the excitement when the pears were finally ripe enough to pick and eat. 

I loved all the trees in my neighborhood.  These trees were fabulous for climbing, building forts and all sorts of other creative endeavors, but the Pear trees had a special place in my heart because they were so very beautiful and they bore the most succulent fruit in summertime.  For some reason –being 4 years old, I guess, and still filled with such a sense of wonder for the world around me—I got the biggest thrill out of being able to walk across the street in order to pick a handful of pears and then eat them straight off the tree.  Of course, I had to be lifted up most of the time in order to reach the fruit-bearing branches towering way above my head.  I had learned that you don’t eat the ones that had fallen on the ground as these were usually rotten and filled with all sorts of insects, which although cool were not recommended for consumption.

As in all really good stories, there is usually a problem that must be solved, a really bad villain and if the story is lucky: an amazing super-hero who sweeps in to the save the day, right?  Well in my story here,  the fruit laying on the ground wound up being “the problem” at some point.  Neighbors began complaining about the swarms of flies and other insects that were attracted to the fallen fruit and since the land on which trees grew belonged to the city, it seemed that none of the neighbors wanted to assume the chore of picking up the rotten fruit.  Enter “the bad guy”:  the city … who I happened to think at the time was actually a person named “city.”  Well, it turned out that the city didn’t want to assume the chore of picking up the rotten pears either; that is to say, that the city didn’t want to pay for the rotten fruit to be picked up.  I guess, a more cost effective solution was deemed to be cutting the Pear trees down altogether. 

For some reason, adults always seem to think that they can talk right in front of kids because kids are just too busy or stupid to stop and listen to what the grown-ups are actually saying.  Well, one evening my parents were standing in the front yard talking to some neighbors while I ran through the sprinklers.  I heard the adults all talking about the Pear trees.  I remember thinking to myself … “Silly adults.  They must be hot standing there just talking.  They should run through the sprinkler to cool off like me.”  But when the subject of chopping down all of the Pear trees came up, I stopped dead in my tracks and began to listen intently.  The lady across the street seemed to know somebody who worked for the city or was on the city council.  She was the one detailing how the trees would be cut down, when and why.  At some point I had heard enough and decided that these adults needed to hear my two cents on the matter, so I walked over to my mom and tugged on her skirt hoping to be invited into the conversation.

“What is it, Isabelle?” My mother inquired. 

“Why does the city person have to cut down the trees? The Pear trees are beautiful and they haven’t hurt anyone?”

My mother explained about all the rotten fruit, flies and other insects … disease, etc..  They lost me on the disease part?  But hey, I was only four.

“So why doesn’t somebody just pick up all the rotten pears up off the ground?” I wondered.

My mother explained that to do the job of picking up the rotten fruit cost money and the city didn’t want to pay to maintain the trees, which were getting old anyway.

“But that’s not right.” I was starting to get upset.  I thought that this city person was just being lazy or cheap or something.  The thought of losing my beautiful Pear trees really bothered me.  So I thought long and hard while the adults continued to talk amongst themselves.  Then it came to me –enter “the hero”?--  I could pick up the rotten fruit.  I tugged on my mother’s skirt once again.

“Yes, Isabelle?”

“I’ll pick up the bad pears.  I can do it.  We have a big trashcan.  Then the city person won’t have to cut down the trees, right?”  I looked up into my mother’s eyes hoping to see some reassurance that my efforts alone would be enough to save my beautiful Pear trees.

My mother smiled warmly at me and replied “That’s a wonderful idea, Isabelle.  What a big girl you are to offer to do such a big job.  We can surely give it a try.”  She patted me on the head.  “Now run and get your towel and dry off.”

I did as directed and was back in just minutes, with my shoes on, ready to begin picking up the pears.  I tugged on my mother’s skirt once again.

“I’m ready to start picking up bad pears.  Will you get the trashcan for me, please?” All the adults laughed.  I didn’t think anything was funny and I didn’t like being laughed at either. 

“You can help too.”  I told the adults.  They immediately stopped laughing.  My dad had gone and gotten the trashcan for me during this brief discourse.  He took my hand and walked me over to the nearest row of pear trees. He surveyed the landscape littered with hundreds of pears.

“That’s a lot of pears!”  He exclaimed.

“It sure is, so we’d better get started.”  I replied enthusiastically and I began to pick up rotten pears as fast as I could and then tossed them into the trashcan.  After a few minutes, I quickly began to see that my dad and me needed help so I shouted to the blabbing adults.

“Hey, there’s a lot of pears here.  Aren’t any of you coming to help?”

Surprisingly enough a few of the adults broke from their gaggle and came over to help.  In no time, we had filled our entire trashcan.  Some of the neighbors went to go get their trashcans as well.  We filled several of the neighbors' trashcans with rotten pears too, but there were still many more pears lying along of the street on both sides.  I was starting to get tired and the sun was almost fully set.  My mother came over and helped for a bit too.  Then she decided that we had done enough for the night.  We could work some more tomorrow.  I agreed, but I was so proud of all the pears that we had managed to pick up.

“See … Now, the city person can be happy and not have to cut down the pear trees!!”  I was smiling from ear to ear at the thought that we had done something positive to help save my beautiful pear trees.

I said goodnight to the Pear trees and told them to sleep well.  I would return to finish my job in the morning.  Then I went to bed myself.

The next morning I awoke … (to be continued, see part 2)

 @Copyrighted Story, June 2012. Isabelle Black Smith: All Rights Reserved.

@Copyrighted Story, June 2012.  Isabelle Black Smith:  All Rights Reserved.

“Save the Pear Trees – Part 2”

The next morning I awoke early and immediately wanted to head out onto the street to resume cleaning up the “bad pears.”  Unfortunately, my mother insisted on my eating a proper breakfast and brushing my teeth which I proceeded to do in record time.  Once I was fed and had a mouthful of sparkling clean teeth,  I was back outside amongst my beautiful pear trees, immersed in their fragrant smell and gently rustling leaves.  I picked up another two trash cans full of pears that morning and then it was time to go the grocery store with my mother.  No worries, though.  I reassured the Pear trees that I would be back shortly to do some more clean-up work.

Judging from the eye-rolling I seem to recall on the part of my mother, I am guessing that my mother was wishing that she had left me at home with a babysitter instead of taking me to the store with her.  In her defense, I probably asked her about 100 times if we were done with the shopping yet.  I even seem to recall volunteering not to eat for a day or two, myself, if that would help things to go any faster.  But eventually, we did finish the grocery shopping and were thankfully headed back home.  Well, not exactly ‘thankfully.’  You see, as we drove up the street leading to my house there were a few dump-trucks, many men and a bulldozer parked along the street side.   I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I had a bad feeling that whatever it was it was not something good.

“What are those big trucks and men doing here, Mommy?” I remember asking.  I also recall the uneasiness in my mother's voice and her delay in responding to my inquiry.

“I don’t know, honey.  Let’s park the car and see.”  Replied my mother.  And so we did.

My mother knew that there was no way that she could hide the inevitable from me, so she took my hand and we walked over toward a big man wearing a funny looking yellow plastic hat.  This man was giving orders to everyone and seemed to be doing most of the talking.  I wondered if this was the man named “city”? 

My mother introduced herself and me.  Then she inquired as to what was going on.  The man in charge informed her that they were here to begin taking down the pear trees, by order of the city.  So this man wasn’t “city,” he was just someone sent to do City’s  dirty work for him.  I felt my mother’s grip on my hand begin to tighten.  She knew I wasn’t going to be happy about this and was probably wondering anxiously just what my reaction to this bad news would be.  Well, fortunately for her she didn’t have to wait too long.  I immediately chimed in …

“Well you can just take these big trucks and men back home, right now!  You don’t have to cut the Pear trees down anymore, because I have already started to pick up all these bad pears.  Just last night me, my dad and some neighbors filled a whole bunch of trash cans full of bad pears.  And this morning I filled two more trashcans all by myself.  It may take me awhile, but I will finish the job.  So you go home and tell City that the trees are saved now.”  I explained while looking up, up, up at this big tall man in the funny hat.  Although, I kind of wanted to tell City this myself.

The big man smiled broadly at me.  “You did all that?  Wow, that sure is a lot of pears.”

“Yeah.  That’s exactly what my Dad said before we started.”  I replied.  The man laughed.  “Whose idea was it to pick up all the bad pears?”  Wondered the yellow-hatted, in-charge big man.

“It was mine.”  I exclaimed proudly.

“Well now, aren’t you a big girl.  That sure is a wonderful idea, but I am afraid that the city still wants these trees to come down.  You see …”  The man began to explain as he gestured for us to follow him over to one of the nearby Pear trees.  “… These trees are getting pretty old and when they start to get old, their wood sometimes weakens and they become susceptible to disease and insects that wouldn’t normally bother them.” He pointed to spots on the trees where the bark was bubbly and sticky looking. “This tree here is being attacked by an insect that is slowly killing the tree and making it weak.  It’s a kind of sickness that leads to falling branches, lots more insects and even the whole tree or a big limb could come down in a wind storm and hurt someone.”

“So the trees are sick?  They don’t all look sick to me.”  I was skeptical.  “Why don’t you just get the sick trees a doctor?”  I wondered.

The man laughed again.  “That’s a fine question and we did have a doctor of sorts out to look at all of these trees.  As a matter of fact, it was this same tree doctor that recommended that we take the trees down.”

“He doesn’t sound like a very good doctor if he can’t save the trees.”  I thought out loud.

“It’s not that the doctor couldn’t have tried to save some of the sick trees.  He just felt that the cost to try to save the trees and then to maintain them afterwards was more than the city would be willing to pay.”

“Why is it always money with grown-ups?”  I wondered.  “If it’s about money, I have a huge pig bank full of money and you can have it all.  Will that be enough to save the trees?”

“You sure do love these trees don’t you, Isabelle.”

“Yes, I do love them.  These Pear trees are my friends.  They are so beautiful, they smell so lovely and they give us the best pears to eat.  Can’t there please be a way to save them?” 

“I agree with you, Isabelle.  These Pear trees are beautiful and I will have to try one of those pears, but I am afraid that city gives the orders and they have to go.  I wish I could do more, but I have to do my job or I will get into big trouble.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, it’s kind of like when I have to clean my room and I don’t really want to, but I will get into big trouble if I don’t.”  My mother smiled broadly and tried to surpress a laugh.

“Exactly.”  The man in charge smiled warmly.  “You know, you could always plant a new baby Pear tree in your own yard.  You could water it, feed it, take care of it and watch it grow.  Then you could have your very own Pear tree.  What do you think about that?”

“I think it would be nice to give a new tree a home, but I don’t want these Pear trees to have to go.  It will make me so sad to see these Pear trees go.”

“I know, but sometimes we have to say good-bye to old friends.” My mother added for moral support.

I just shook my head.  “I still don’t like it.  It doesn’t seem right to take down the trees that are not sick.”

The man sympathized.  “I know.” He shook his head.  “I don’t like it either, but sometimes we have to do things we just don’t like.”  Then he added, “I have to get back to work now, Isabelle, but I tell you what:  why don’t I let you borrow a workman’s hard-hat.  Then, you can sit on your front porch and watch us work if you want.  Would you like that?”

“It’s kind of a silly looking hat.”  I frowned.

“Yeah, I guess it kind of is … but you see it’s hard so it protects our heads when we work.”  He took his hat off and knocked on it with his fist.

“Like from falling tree branches.”  I offered.


“My little sister throws toys at me all the time.  Sometimes she hits me in the head.  A hat like that might come in handy.”

The man laughed.  “Indeed.”  Then he shouted for one of the workman to bring him a small hard-hat and he placed it atop my head. 

“So, I guess, I can’t change your mind about taking down the trees?”  I had to ask one last time.

The man in charge shook his head.  “Sorry, Isabelle.  Only the city can change my mind.”

“Sure it wouldn’t help if I talked to this city person?” 

“Afraid not.”  The man in charge shrugged his shoulders.

My mom stepped in to break the silence.  “Well, thank you for your time and the loan of the hard-hat.  If you’ll excuse us, we have a car full of groceries that needs unloading. … Come along, Isabelle.  You can put your hat on and watch from the front porch.  Now thank the nice man, Isabelle.”

“Thank you … “  I hesitated.  “Please be gentle with the Pear trees.  Try not to hurt them when you take them down, okay?”  A tear was starting to form in my eyes.  I didn’t want the Pear trees to come down, but it seemed as if there was nothing further that I could do.  I wasn’t angry with the man in charge for doing his job, but I sure didn’t like City.  My mother took my hand and we walked back to our house.  She unloaded the car while I sat on the front porch with my hard-hat coloring pictures of my Pear trees.  I wanted to remember my beautiful Pear trees on paper before they were all gone. 

My mother finished emptying the car.  Then she made me a sandwich, with some sliced pears and juice.  We had gone a few days ago and picked a whole basket full of pears.  I wondered where we would get pears from once the trees were gone.  I wondered if they would taste as good as our pears.  I wondered how our street would look once all of the beautiful Pear trees were gone.  Then I started to cry.  My smart mother had set a box of tissues beside the plate of food.  I used a couple. 

I sat there watching until the men began taking down the trees.  The noise was horrible … grinding, shredding, pieces of trees flying everywhere.  The trees were being taken apart … slaughtered.  I could hear the trees crying too.  They were hurting and I couldn’t just sit there and watch any longer.  I ran to the edge of the sidewalk and started shouting at the workmen at the top of my lungs …

“Stop it!  Stop cutting!  You are hurting the trees: Can’t you hear them crying?”  I shouted through tears, but the thing was no one could hear little me over all of the heavy machinery and noise.  So I decided to run right into the fray and get right up into their faces.  I ran across the street and started yelling at the top of  my lungs to the first set of workmen that I could find.

“Stop it!  You’re hurting the trees. Stop!!  Please stop … Please!!”  A few of the men stopped and looked at me like I was crazy and would someone please come and remove the screaming kid so that they could get back to work.

“Can’t you hear me?” I kept shouting.  “I said STOP!!” 

For some reason, my mother always got results whenever she preceded any request or statement with the phrase “I said”, so I thought I might get results if I used it here, but it didn’t seem to have quite the same impact for me? The workmen weren’t listening to me or taking me seriously, so I threw my hard-hat onto the ground.  Then I ran over to the bulldozer and kicked it as hard as I could.  Lucky for me, the bulldozer wasn’t moving at the time.  By that time the man in charge had found his way over to me.  He tried to pick me up in order to carry me back to safety, but I wasn’t going.  I grabbed ahold of the edge of the bulldozer’s mouth and held on for dear life. 

“Isabelle, you can’t be here.  It’s not safe.  You could get hurt.”  The man in charge scolded me.

“I don’t care!”  I screamed.  “I’m not going.  The trees need me.  You’re hurting them!  Can’t you hear them?! They’re crying … I don’t care what City says:  You have to STOP!!”

At this point, the man in charged had decided to stop trying to reason with me.  He pried my fingers off the mouth of the bulldozer, tucked a screaming me under his arm and walked me back across the street to my mother.  My mother apologized.  The man in charge apologized and patted me on the head.  Then the man in charge left to return to his task of removing the Pear trees. 

My mother took me in her arms and hugged me.  She listened to me rant and rave and held me tightly, with love, to keep me from running back into the midst of the tree-massacre fray again.  I asked to hug the big Pear Tree in our yard, just to the left of the sidewalk, so I could say good-bye.  Then my mother brought me inside and locked deadbolt on the door behind her –to keep a rebellious me inside, not anyone else out per se.  After I had calmed down a bit, I sat in the window box and watched the workmen continue with their taking down of the beautiful pear trees and cried.  From time to time, I still shouted to the workmen through the open window that they were “bad men” for hurting the trees but they didn’t hear me or if they did they ignored me.  I drew pictures of the workmen cutting down the trees and drew big black X’s through the workmen.  Doing the latter made me feel slightly better.

By the time my Dad got home from work I was pretty much cried out.  My Dad hugged me.  Then he painted a picture with the beautiful Pear trees at sunset.  The next night my Dad painted a picture with Pear trees in silhouette … all black … now but a shadow of a memory in a little girl’s mind and heart.

[Using my own box of tissues here at the end, in the here and now.  Funny how even old child memories can still seem so real … just like it was yesterday.]

@Copyrighted Story, June 2012.  Isabelle Black Smith:  All Rights Reserved.


DiAnne's Place said...

Isabelle, I too had to reach for my tissues! Even as I knew the ending was coming to this it did not make it any less of a "punch". Thank you so much again for this beautiful story! I will never eat another pear that I don't think of this lovely story. I consider this a gift; one that is a very special gift indeed! Love to you my special friend <3
I hope you think of me when passing by a Willow!

Michelle (Isabelle) said...

Empathy for the feelings of another is a gift too, DiAnne. I was happy to share. Great opportunity for me to revisit my roots ... where the me that is today came from. So thank you for providing me with that. And yes, I will always think of you with a special prayer of blessing when I come across a willow tree. God Bless! ♥