The Shade

By Suzanne Allen

It was a hot summer day walking down that dusty road. 

The grasshoppers sang their song and hurriedly flew away as Rose walked through the tall grass.

It had been years since she had been to the family’s home place.   The grass and weeds were almost to her hip as she pushed through the thicket that was scattered here and there.

An occasional rabbit hopped and scurried ahead of her as the scissortail flycatchers flew out of the blackjack trees as she approached.

After a long drive to rural Oklahoma from California, Rose was excited to see the place she had recently inherited.   She was the only grandchild that wanted to take over the property.  She went ahead of her own family to assess everything and make plans to repair and restore the former house she remembered.

Rose had been there already a few days visiting relatives and being reintroduced into their community. Then she went to the Sac and Fox Nation tribal headquarters to sign paperwork for her new job position in the accounting department.  It would be at least a month before the job started giving her time to get everything ready.

This morning, she came by herself to walk the property, take notes, and a few pictures.

Rose’s cousins were going to join her later, bringing lawnmowers, and other equipment to begin the cleanup. Her uncle John and aunt Mary were going to come by in the evening along with a few other family members and bring some food.

The property had been vacant for almost a year before the family had decided who they were going to offer it to.  Rose was called around Christmas and discussed it with her husband.  They thought it was a great idea and time to move back home after being gone for many years.  Their kids were still young enough to adjust to a new school and had numerous younger relatives to become acquainted to.

Rose forgot how hot the Oklahoma summers could be as she wiped the sweat off her face. She stopped took off her baseball cap and splashed some water on her face from the bottle after taking a few sips.  Stopping to take a few pictures of the large pond in the middle of the property remembering the days she spent swimming there.  A memory about fishing with her grandpa came into her thoughts making her smile.  She missed him.

Rose walked across the dam built by the Army Corps of Engineers long ago to the other side of the property, to see if the fencing was still good or needed to be replaced.  She took more pictures of the pond. 

The water was mostly still with an occasional bubble on the surface from the fish below with a few dragonflies flying near the shore.  She could hear the wind blowing through the trees bringing a welcome breeze as she walked the well-worn trail.  Finally, making it to the other side of the pond she took more pictures.

She walked to an area that used to be the swimming spot for her and her cousins growing up.  It was an outcrop of rocks that jutted into the water.  She spent a lot of her summers there with her grandparents and the occasional cousin that would stop by to visit.  They would run through the woods, playing, climbing trees, and searching for wild strawberries. Then the afternoons would be spent swimming in the pond until dinnertime.  They would occasionally fish and catch some tadpoles.  

She sat down for a moment feeling the warmth of the rocky surface beneath her.  She closed her eyes to listen and see what the surroundings were telling her.

Rose could hear the creaking of the tree branches swaying in the wind. She heard the scurry of field mice in the underbrush as the grass moved.  The sound of the summer bugs buzzing by.  Catching a glimpse of the dragonflies skimming the surface of the water as she opened her eyes, Rose noticed something across the pond she had not noticed before, it was a tall pear tree.

Curiosity got the better of her, as Rose crossed back over and made her way towards the pear tree growing at the back of the house.  As she got closer, Rose estimated the tree was at least 12 feet tall, and had fruit hanging from its branches.  She recognized the type of pear tree immediately, her best friend had the same tree growing in her yard, it was an Asian Pear tree.

The tree was tall, and the yellow round fruit had begun to fall to the ground.  She stepped around them as she looked around. The first time Rose learned about these types of pears was when she went away to college.  Her college roommate had offered her a pear and Rose mistakenly thought it was an apple.  She had no idea that pears came in different varieties.  

Rose sat down to enjoy the shade from the tree then her phone rang.

“Aho!” the voice on the other side said heartily.  It was her cousin, Tommy, telling her they were on their way there.   After a few minutes of chatting, Rose stood up and leaned against the tree.

She then had a clear memory in her mind of the last time she saw this long-forgotten tree.

Rose was graduating high school and had worked hard to get a scholarship to an out of state college.  She was going to be the first one in her family to get a college education.  Her goal then was to come back and work for her tribe as a doctor.   

The last day she saw her grandparents together was at her high school graduation party.  They were standing by the tree quietly talking to one another.  Her grandpa had bought the tree and planted it for her grandma. He had told everyone it was a pear tree, but most did not believe it would grow any fruit because of the Oklahoma red clay dirt.  Rose watched as her grandpa took her grandma’s hand and they danced by the tree.  Her grandma smiled at her then laughed as she was spun around.  It was the best memory she had of them both. 

It was a year later, and her grandpa passed away from lung cancer.  Rose had no idea as well as most of the family.  He had quit smoking while she was in college, but it had been too late. The grandparents had kept his illness to themselves until the end.  Her grandma, who was in her early nineties, lived with other relatives in the house until two years ago when she passed away quietly in her sleep. 

Life during and after college had become busy and hectic for Rose.  She completed college but not as a doctor instead becoming an accountant. She got married and had three children.  Her husband was a civil engineer and they had traveled almost all over the world for his work. Then he became a consultant opting to work from home remotely to help raise their kids.  She rarely got back home to Oklahoma to visit and mainly spoke with her grandma by phone.

Then she got the call about the house, and they made the decision to move. No one had lived there since their grandma had passed away.  Her cousins took turns coming out to check on the house, but it had been a while due to a harsh winter and an early spring snowfall. 

The tall two-story white house was still in good condition.  The wrap around porch needed some minor repairs and a new coat of paint.  There was overgrown weeds and a few wasp nests to contend with but that could be remedied. 

The propane tank would need to be checked; Rose put it on her calendar to call the company the following Monday.   The water to the house was supplied by a natural spring that ran under the property.  After running the outside spigot a few moments, the water poured out cold and clear.  Rose filled her water bottle up with the best tasting water she ever had.  It was something she missed while away.

After walking through the inside of the house, noting a few other minor changes to be made Rose then sat on the front porch. She sat, rocking on her grandma’s favorite chair.  She could hear the vehicles coming down the gravel road and saw the dust being thrown into the air at the end of the overgrown driveway. 

Standing on the porch she waved at her cousins getting out of their pickup trucks.  Rose made her way through the tall grass again and they stood there deciding where to start. The clean up began and lasted well into the afternoon.

A few of her new neighbors stopped by and helped as they went.  She remembered most as they reintroduced themselves. They grew up together during the summers she spent there.

As the late afternoon sun started its descent on the horizon the rest of the family showed up. They brought food, tables, chairs and a few benches.  By the time they had arrived most of the work was done.  Rose and her cousins were sitting under the shade trees, chatting, and cooling down.  A few of her cousins had gone down to the pond to swim and cool off.

Rose got up to walk around and take a few more pictures of the newly cleaned up lawn and house. She was going to send them to her husband.  As she walked to the back of the house, she caught a glimpse of the pear tree once again. 

She smiled remembering her grandparents.

Rose looked forward to making the same memories with her own family around the pear tree, one day.

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Challenge: Pear tree

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