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A Memorable Place

The stubborn pomegranate of Samos

By Fredricka R. Maister


Wearily walking back to the village, parched and spent after a pleasant day at the beach, my friends and I, young tourists visiting the Greek island of Samos, spied a lone pomegranate at the very top of a tree. A red, juicy pomegranate to quench the thirst and make the rest of the long trek back to the village endurable!

The members of our group had but to give each other a consenting look and we were off to possess that pomegranate.

No scruples were publicly expressed as to the morality of the deed -- after all, we had been helping ourselves to all the wild berries, tomatoes and grapes growing alongside the road on this lush Greek island.

But this pomegranate was on the other side of a fence -- perhaps a hands-off warning to any potential trespasser.

One agile, athletic type in our group volunteered to jump the fence, climb the tree and shake down the pomegranate. With eyes fixated upward on the fiery red ball, we stood and breathlessly awaited the triumphant swish that would force the fruit down. From that moment of victory, it would be ours to savor and devour.

However, dislodging that pomegranate proved to be a far more difficult task than contemplated. Ten minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour passed, and still no pomegranate.

About that time, a peasant woman astride a donkey was seen coming down the road. As the bent-over, black-shrouded figure drew nearer, pangs of guilt and remorse suddenly surged in the collective soul of our group.

We had been caught in the act of stealing a pomegranate from poor people who had nothing in the way of material advantages to which we had been accustomed.

Ashamed, we hesitantly nodded to the wizened old woman who sharply ordered her donkey to a halt and motioned with a swift flick of her hand for us to approach. We moved gingerly and with great reluctance, expecting to hear her reproach us for trying to snitch the pomegranate.

Instead, without uttering a word, she just pointed to her uncovered basket of grapes. She was inviting us to indulge. So shocked were we by this upheaval in our expectations that our fingers fumbled to grasp the juicy grapes.

As the old woman rode onward and disappeared into the setting sun, we could only marvel at the Greek peasants who were always ready and willing to share what little they had.

We never did retrieve the pomegranate. A week later when we passed that way again, we noticed that it was still there, intact on its high perch, glimmering in the sunlight. It was more inviting than ever, but we passed it by.

Fredricka R. Maister lives in New York City.

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