Pear Relish At ninety-five my grandmother would wake when daylight, tasseled just beneath the east, enfolded morning glimmers like the gold of cornsilk tufted inside their green cocoons dew-husked by dawn, and rise to songs of birds, compelled from ails and shallow drowse to dress, and wade into a garden’s rumpled rows where sunbows garnished gloves of rabbit ears and early shows of overspreading chard entwisted canted grafts of butter beans along the okra caps a white-tailed doe had missed when startled by unwonted sounds, and zagged beyond clematis into woods. With care she would survey the planted plots, each patch like crewel duvets suffused with down, and stand hip-deep in mint and borage blooms, the hushed remands of ruffled lilies hued with sepals bowed chatoyant in their poised ephemera, to work the weeds away, her small arthritic hands still stronger than the men she could outlive again with ease. By middle morn she’d pick a basket load of ready yields, succession herbs and fruit, but always tarried by the Kieffer pears as though she’d wandered into a salon of artists famous for their pear tableaux, conspicuous with commentary nods, and calyx wrinkles creased along her brow, her reaching arms like maestro trained batons, that tap backstage anticipating how an oboe A will tune an orchestra before the pause that falls to overtures replete with rondo themes for harvest picks, and tempos timed for kitchen alchemy. And home again, the screen door propped to porch, she’d follow recipes for relish drupes, with canning troupes incarnate with reports on juliennes of cinnamon and cloves and tips on wedging unripe pomes to mince in sausage grinders given to enmesh the coarse and verdant crisp of meaty flesh that raw in oblong shapes both hard and soft resembled faces that her features made, a toughened guise grown softer by the years, though always hard inside from life’s travails. And soon to add the cider vinegar, a touch of turmeric to gild the grail, would bring to boil the auric bouillon mash, in sync au sec with summer’s repertoire of roused cicadas’ late crescendo surge that thrummed the last ingredients to add: sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, spice. Into the jars and sealing domes the blend would settle until cooled to ochre pulp, the fetes where spooned ambrosia would tell if all had gone according to the plan, and usually it went with everything, accompanied with grateful dialects of incoherent praise with mouths too full to say what happiness it was to taste. “Don’t look back or cows will lick your cheeks,” my grandmother would say and send a wink-- an idiom equation of Lot’s wife who turned to salt, and salt the cattle like-- then satisfied, the dishes done, she’d sit with nudging cricks of which she never once complained though pained enough to plainly see, and rock the easy chair to Lawrence Welk.
Claude Barbre, Ph.D., L.P., is Distinguished Full Professor, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He is the Course-Lead Coordinator of the Psychodynamics Orientation, and lead faculty in the Child and Adolescent Studies. Dr. Barbre served for 12 years as Executive Director of The Harlem Family Institute, a New York City school-based, psychoanalytic training program. Author of prize-winning articles, books, and poetry, Dr. Barbre is a five-time recipient of the International Gradiva Award for “outstanding contributions to psychoanalysis and the arts.” He is currently a Board Member and Training Supervisor at The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis (CCP), and in private practice in Chicago.