A few weeks ago I was sitting at lunch with my colleagues and one of them mentioned how much he loved the fruit of the Paw Paw tree. This sounded like a made-up thing so we laughed at him. He insisted that the Paw Paw tree grows wild in the forests of Maryland and is a delicious native fruit of my home state.
I consider myself a loyal and proud Marylander. I can name all the counties. I know the state flower: Black Eyed Susan, AND what the black and gold symbolize. I know the meaning of the state flag and the founders (shout out to Lord Calvert) and the state song. I even know the state cookie: chocolate chip (lame, I know, but I’m still proud). I know where the Fitzgerald’s are buried and where Uncle Tom’s Cabin is and how to tell when a crab is big enough to harvest. I know the main ingredient in Old Bay and how much snow Garrett County gets and that we are only the ninth state to guarantee students full First Amendment rights.
So when Zack threw down a tree I’d never heard of, I was skeptical. He told us the fruit tastes like peach ice cream and is smooth and creamy and wonderful. This manna sounded too good to be true so I hit the Google. Turns out Zack wasn’t lying. I turned to Amazon and found I could order a two-pack of the fruit, which looks sort of like a mango, for only $20. Thank you Jeff Bezos. I ordered it right up, content even though the delayed order warning told me it would take two weeks. Fruit of my homeland, tasting like my favorite food – no wait could be too long.
About two weeks later, I get a text from my dear high school friend Renata. She tells me she has ordered me a very unusual belated birthday gift but she saw it and thought of me and had to send it. She says the gift will come without a card, so she’s giving me heads up. That night, I’m out driving older daughter’s carpool, and younger daughter texts me that a weird-shaped package has come for me and can she open it. She says it’s six feet tall, and very skinny. Intrigued, I tell her it’s the gift from my friend Renata and to go ahead.
When I arrive home I am shocked to find a stick in a pot of dirt. Really. A stick. In a pot of dirt. No note. The shipping info tells me it’s a Paw Paw tree. I am flabbergasted. How did Renata know I had just been discussing the fruit?
I text her my thanks and my wonder that she knew what to send me – and what an unusual gift! Who sends someone a tree? To be clear, though, this doesn’t look anything like a tree. It’s a stick. In a pot. Of dirt. I try to sound grateful but I’m really just confused.
Renata texts back. She sent me a necklace. She has no idea what I’m talking about.
I check my Amazon order history. I didn’t order a two-pack of fruit. I ordered a tree. Which is a stick. In a pot. Of dirt. Currently sitting on my kitchen table awaiting Mother’s Day, which is the day you can safely assume frosts are over and planting can commence in Maryland and another thing I know about my home state.
I look forward to the stick growing to a tree and bearing fruit in, oh, 20 years or so, when I will finally taste the delicious Paw Paw fruit. Until then, the necklace is really nice.