• Otter Views: Holiday Pears

    by Tom Stevens

    Monday’s arrival of the annual Harry and David pears from my brother signaled it was time to start the Christmas shopping.

    The holiday pears rode into town in a segmented cardboard box nearly as cool as the fruit within. Cunning diagonal dividers create seven cozy nesting pockets for what the grower modestly calls “America’s rarest and finest” pears. Probably not by accident, the diamond-shaped sections resemble display racks for vintage wines.

    Cushioned top and bottom by foam pads, the pears float on a frothy sea of green tissue paper. The six visible ones sport tiny freckles, amply rounded curves and demure crimson blushes. If pears were painters’ models, these would be Botticelli Venuses.

    But because these are holiday pears, they must also convey a sense of seasonal mystery. Thus, one pear in each box – and one alone – wears shiny gold foil. I call this pear Seven Beauties, after a bygone art film of that name.

    I don’t know how long the foil-wrapped piece has been a holiday gift box staple, but it is a marketing master stroke, the gold tooth in the Harry and David smile. I would have loved being in the Medford packing shed the day that feature was added.

    “Harry? We need somethin’ more.”

    “Whaddya mean? We got sturdy boxes, foam pads, divider inserts, green tissue paper. The pears don’t need no more tartin’ up, Dave. They’re just fruit, fer cryin’ out loud.”

    “To you and me and the pickers, maybe. But to the people out there,” here David’s arm makes a vague but generous sweep, “these pears represent Christmas itself! To some folks, these here pears are precious as gold.”

    Harry’s stem-calloused fingers snap. “That’s it! We’ll wrap the boxes in gold foil!”

    But you know how it goes. Today, gold foil boxes. Tomorrow, the accountants ride in. “What if you just wrap the gold foil around one pear in each box?” the money guys suggest.

    Harry and David exchange a look. “That’s what we meant. Here, take some pears home to your kids.”

    “Would you mind wrapping them in gold?”

    There could be other scenarios, of course, because Christmas is rich in auric associations. Wasn’t gold one of the gifts of the Magi? Don’t caroling angels “touch their harps of gold?” And aren’t “five gold rings” among the true love’s offerings?

    Anyway, once the gift box was opened, I e-mailed thanks to my brother, then gently palpated the six unwrapped pears, leaving Seven Beauties for Christmas Day. Choosing the pear that felt closest to ripeness, I sliced it into clean, glistening wedges and arranged them artfully on a plate. Cheddar cheese slices came next. Then trail mix from the Monday PG farmer’s market, and last a handful of dried cranberries as luminous as garnets.

    “Happy holidays!” I announced. Slice by slice, the first pear disappeared from the plate as if in a time-lapse video. The other pears could wait, but the shopping could not. Already the post office had sent out its dire notice about mailing deadlines. It’s like one of those warnings printed on the driver’s side mirror of a car: “If you’re reading this now, Christmas is already too close.”

    But over many years of yuletide procrastination, I’ve developed two fall-back positions: “defensive shopping” and calendars. When shopping defensively, I buy many units of the same thing to save time and simplify wrapping. I then lay down a pre-emptive strike of small, quick-hitting presents and streak for cover. It’s prudent to be out of town when these identical gifts are opened and compared.ऀऀ

    I learned that lesson the year I bought the Darth Vader soap bars, each Vader peering menacingly through a cellophane window in its little box. Enchanted, I reasoned the recipients would be too. I’m still haunted by the Christmas memory of my dismayed parents and grandmother gazing mutely at their coal-black Vader soap bars – just holding them loosely on their laps, not knowing what to say.

    If all else fails, calendars make excellent procrastinator gifts. Since they don’t kick in until January, calendars aren’t so much late Christmas presents as early New Year presents. And they slide right into the mail.

    Some people scoff at calendars, but I find them indispensable. Ever since the raccoons got my watch – the one that gave the day and the date – I keep a calendar handy at all times. I’ve found that people are pretty impressed when I know what day it is. For instance, if someone calls me here at home, I just flick my eyes to the calendar as we speak. “Gosh it’s great to hear from you on a Thursday, Dec. 20, Ed. How’s the family?”

    Right now my calendar reads: “time for third pear.”

    And so, happy holidays.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 21, 2012

    Topics: Otter Views

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