Stories from Easter Island, continued

My dad’s fantasies have always been of the horticultural variety. How I wish I could win the lottery and make his lifelong dream of owning a walnut orchard or a cactus farm come true! Having crammed exotic plants into every corner of his own tiny suburban yard, he has begun speculating about the possibilities my yard has to offer. In a recent conversation we had, he mused about the feasibility of moving my house toward the back of the property so that my front yard could be transformed into a fruit orchard.

He’s been fascinated by fruit for as long as I can remember. You know that exotic fruit ghetto in the grocery store? That neglected little corner with strange, lumpy things no one ever buys and wouldn’t even know how to eat if they did? That’s always been my dad’s favorite part of the grocery store. He was always bringing home unusual fruits to try. You’d often find a napkin with seeds culled from these fruits, drying on our kitchen windowsill to be planted whenever he deemed the conditions to be favorable.

Over the winter holidays this year, we ate a lot of pomegranate. The only time my kids and husband and I ever eat this fruit is when we’re with my parents. It’s one of those fruits that I’ve always liked, but not enough to actually buy. For one thing, they’re a royal pain to cut open, though you can avoid some of the squirting and staining issues if you open the fruit in a large bowl of water. Over the Christmas break, my mother did all the hard work for us. Every night after dinner, she would pass around a bowl of the gorgeous, translucent seeds and a teaspoon with which to scoop them out.

One evening, as my dad helped himself to a few of the seeds, he told us this story…

“We had a pomegranate bush when I was growing up. It’s not a plant that’s native to Korea, so it was quite unusual to see one. We were the only ones who had one for miles around. But, I never once got to taste a pomegranate until I was an adult.”

“Every year, there would be only a few fruits, and as soon as they were ripe, our mother would take them to give to women in our village who wanted to have a baby, but were having trouble. They’re supposed to help with fertility. They would be so happy to get the fruit!”

“Gosh, Dad!” I said, feeling sad about his childhood of deprivation, “You didn’t get to eat the sparrows and you didn’t get to eat the pomegranates!”

“Our mother was soft-hearted like that. When my dad was still alive, we didn’t have much, but we were doing OK, so she was always trying to help other people…”

I’ve always wanted to plant a pomegranate…not so much for the fruit, as for the brilliant, flamboyant blossoms that precede it. This spring I’m going to get a couple plants at one of my favorite local nurseries: one for the notional orchard in my front yard, and one that I’m sure my dad will be able to squeeze into his own yard somewhere.

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