Wineskins Archive

January 13, 2014

Of Pear Trees and Grapevines: A Childhood Memory (Jan – Jun 1995)

Filed under: — @ 4:30 pm and

by Jonathan A. Partlow
January – June, 1995

Some time back my wife brought a pear home for me. I didn’t think too much about it, at least not right then. She knows I like pears. She also knows that, when I was a child, I had a pear tree and a cherry tree in the backyard. Well, she put the pear in a brown lunch bag and set it on the kitchen counter to ripen.

A couple of days passed before I remembered the pear and decided to have it for a snack. But what I discovered was more than I bargained for.

As I bit into the pear, suddenly, memories flooded my mind. Memories of my brothers and me climbing the trees in our backyard. Memories of my sister getting scared when she was stuck in a tree, allowing only Dad to help her down. Memories of telling ten-year-old Richie, “We don’t jump from that branch,” because it was too high, then watching him successfully make the leap. Memories of David and me hiding candy and baseball cards in our trees until we could sneak them past Mom into the house. Memories of the rain ruining our baseball cards because we forgot we had them in the trees.

Memories of Dad and me fulfilling requirements for Cub Scouts by building a red and green birdhouse and securing it to the tree. Memories of watching the family of robins build their nest inside my birdhouse. Memories of telling Lehman Hall to cut off a branch—the one giving shade to the house—when it was the other branch Dad wanted cut off.

Memories of our garage filled with pears and the aroma filling the house. Memories of going downstairs, scanning the fruit, finding the biggest, ripest, juiciest pear to pack in my Snoopy lunch box. Memories of Mom sending us kids downstairs to find another jar for her canning projects. All of these memories came from biting into a pear!

Our senses are powerful. They can be triggered by something as simple as biting a pear, and suddenly, we find ourselves traveling down memory lane.

You’re at a table in a restaurant. You’re alone. You’re almost oblivious to the people around you. Then someone walks by. You feel the breeze. You smell the fragrance. You look up, savoring the scent. You know the perfume. It’s the one your wife was wearing the day you met her. It’s also the perfume she was wearing the day she died.

It’s 1975. The alarm clock on the nightstand sounds off just as it does every morning. But it’s not the alarm getting you out of bed this morning, it’s your husband screaming at the top of his voice. He’s under the bed crying his eyes out. All you know is to get under the bed with him, hold him, and tell him, “It’s all right, Honey. The war’s over. You’re home! You’re not in Vietnam!”

You’re long past the age of retirement. Most of your friends, the ones you’ve known all your life, are gone. Your children have moved away. Your wallpaper design is “Old Photo.” There’s a knock at the door and it’s your neighbor, an attentive young lady living across the street. In her arms is her three-week-old little boy. You invite her in and she lets you hold him. You gaze at him and touch him—so small, so dependent on his mother for everything. After listening to her story of the big day, you get the joy of telling her about births before birthing rooms.

You walk on campus at your alma mater. The sign reads, “Welcome, Class of ’64.” On the walls are the senior class pictures of years gone by. You find the appropriate frame and, like reviewing one last time for a biology test, you study the names and faces of those you once knew so well. You enter the room where your former classmates are gathered. You discover that some things never change, some others do. Jerry is still the life of the party, but the skinny cross-country runner now looks more like a linebacker for the football team. Some of your classmates have blossomed, others have wilted. Yet, as you see them that night, you relive days gone by..

God knew the power of our senses and how they are triggered, giving us an emotional experience—a memory. We Christians experience this phenomenon every Sunday. But the source triggering our memories is not fruit from a tree but fruit from the vine. The juice we drink and the bread we eat at the Lord’s Supper symbolize Christ—his body broken and his blood shed for us. As we partake of it we don’t just state or announce his death, but we proclaim it until he comes. And, as a body, we participate in the “commune” or fellowship by remembering him. But what exactly are we to remember?

Maybe we ought to understand that “remembrance” has less to do with recall than it does with experience. When Jesus told his disciples to take bread and wine in remembrance of him, he was not talking about the details of his ministry or crucifixion, but reliving or reexperiencing the pain and suffering of the crucifixion: to weep with him in the garden, to look inward when Peter denies our Savior the third time, to hear the words from the cross as he looks at us as well as them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Just as the pear caused me to relive my childhood, so the Lord’s Supper causes us to relive Christ. And while we mourn the death he died, the burden he bore, and the sin he suffered, we celebrate the life he lived, the righteousness he renews, and the salvation he secures for us. So, this next Sunday, allow your senses to trigger a memory and take you back to the foot of the cross to see the one who died so you could live. Wineskins Magazine

Jonathan A. Partlow

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