Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apples and Family

Growing up in the midwest, apples were always a huge part of celebrating fall. As a child, I can remember spending glorious fall days climbing the trees of apple orchards. We’d take an afternoon and pick a good five bushels of apples. Back in the day, and I swear I’m not that old, a bushel of apples cost $5, and if you paid for four, you got the fifth free. Over the years the price crept up slowly, but we still went and picked. My mother would make homemade applesauce which we would can and have all winter. Our basement had a cold storage area I called the “fruit cellar” –even though I think it was supposed to be called the “root cellar,” under the porch. We’d store some of the fresh apples there, and we’d have apples to eat all winter. We made a lot of apple salads. My mother also canned her own apple pie filling. This was heavenly on a damp winter day. We’d come home from school, crack open two jars, whip up some crumb topping and have apple crisp after dinner. If you were lucky, there’d be just enough to heat up for breakfast the next morning.

When I went away to college in Tennessee I’d spend my weekends walking to a small produce stand in downtown where I’d buy apples, bring them home and make homemade applesauce in the microwave. I’d often complain because I’d start my quest in mid September and annually be disappointed when they weren’t there until at least October. When we moved to Savannah, the lack of apples was quite possibly my biggest produce complaint. There were zero locally grown apples and zero variety of apple types. Galas, red delicious, golden delicious. That was it. I think the experience of apple picking was part of my motivation to move back home.

This year, as a family we’ve officially established our first family tradition. It was a miserably gray fall morning, with just the right amount of damp and chill in the air. We packed peanut and his little red radio flyer in the back of the truck. We picked up Grandma and Grandpa and off we went. We drove right passed the more commercial McQueen’s Orchard and its fall festival extravaganza. Pony rides, inflatables, apple fritters, and highly overpriced everything.
Instead we went to a far more sincere orchard in Swanton, where we paid much more than apples went for in my youth, but still cheaper than buying them in the store. We picked a bushel as did my parents. When Rich would ask which types I wanted, I would provide a lecture on the characteristics of the particular apples he was currently looking at, you know, flavor, cooking abilities, storage hardiness…—to which he’d reply, “I don’t need to know all that, just tell me how many you want.” Peanut rode along in his wagon, happily chewing on any half eating apples we tossed him.
You see this is our first family tradition since this was one of peanuts first major expeditions a year ago, when he was only a month or so old. He doesn’t likely remember much of it, since he was mostly hungry and cranky when we went. He probably won’t remember much of this year either—not even the part where dad lifted him in to the tree to get an apple or two. But I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, having traditions, having things that you do regularly as a family help establish connections that last. So as simple as it is and for whatever it’s worth, I’m super glad we officially have at least one.