My grandfather grew cherry trees. They were beautiful, elegant and a great source of pride to him. Late summer when the cherries were ripe, I remember helping him pick them, dropping the plump, red, juicy berries into empty ice cream pails. We were allowed to eat as many cherries as we wanted, but Grandpa had one simple rule: no one was allowed to spit the pits onto the sidewalk. As a child, I never quite understood why he was so adamant about it but once I got older, his reasoning became clear. If a pit was spit onto the sidewalk, the sun would bake it onto the cement as it dried, turning it an ugly brown and making it hard to get off. Not many people find a sight like that attractive and cetertainly no one wants to take the extra time to scrape dried cherry pits off the sidewalk when you could be eating cherries instead!
Eventually though, Grandpa and Grandma moved, leaving the cherry trees behind. I missed the times spent in the backyard with Grandpa, waiting for the cherries to ripen and watching them slowly become redder and plumper until the day Grandpa declared them ready to pick. And I missed their distinctly sweet yet tangy taste that made your mouth water even before you’d picked it off the tree. They were the best cherries in the whole world to me and still are. And how I missed them.
Years later, a short while after my grandfather had passed on, I amazingly was able to acquire one of his cherry trees from a long time friend who he had once given one of his young trees to. With great care we transplanted it to my parent’s acreage out in the country and watched it grow and take root. A few times I was told by people that it was dead but I refused to believe it. Grandpa’s cherry trees were strong and beautiful and there was no way this one was going to die. And it didn’t.
Last year it finally produced fruit: one single cherry which was watched over with great care until the day finally came when it was ripe enough to pick and eat. There are not enough words to describe how many memories that single cherry brought back to life as the first wave of it’s flavor hit my taste buds. It had exactly the same tangy sweetness I remembered loving as a child; and I fell in love all over again. It was almost like I was back in my grandparents back yard, ice cream bucket in hand, being told not to spit the pits onto the sidewalk. If I closed my eyes, I could almost make myself believe I was there again.
Grandpa would be proud, I think, to know that one of his cherry trees lives on and is so greatly loved. Not only because of how delicious and amazing it’s fruit is, but because of the good times and good memories of him that it helps to keep alive. Rest in peace Grandpa.