Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Memory: Apple Picking

October 15, 2007

Seems like everyone in BlogWorld has been apple picking this week except us. Living in Tennessee does have one or two drawbacks, and apples would be high on that list. You just can't get them here like you can in the north. If you don't know this about me already, I grew up surrounded by apples. Apple seeds, apple seedlings, apple rootstocks, apple diseases, apple orchards, and just plain apples. My father has spent his life either growing fruit or doing groundbreaking research in fruit breeding and nursery production. Before him rest five generations of Cummins apple growers. My brothers are the seventh generation, and two have orchards: Stephen (above) has Indian Creek and James has Bittersweet, both in or near Ithaca, NY. Stephen and my Dad also run Cummins Nursery.

But I have no apples to pick here. No orchards laden with fruit so heavy the branches sweep the ground. No collecting bruised drops beneath the trees, no dizzying odor of the cider press, and no promise of cider. My children don't know the flick of the wrist and gentle twist needed in apple picking or the weight of a picking bag upon the shoulders.

Dad, Peeling Apples

The color of wheat
bread speckled
like the skin of a Golden Delicious,
freckles on top of freckles
and tiny nicks
from his knife, dots of blood
turned to brown scabs.
My father’s hands

have never changed. Every night
a different apple
skinned naked,
split and seeded without him
ever looking down, loving the fit
of apple
in the left hand, brown-handled
knife in the right.
He licks the tip of his finger
where the juice runs clear
and skewers a slice

for me, which I take
of whether I want
an apple or whether
the flesh has begun to brown
around the edges. When he is done,
knife set down and fingers wiped
clean against the legs
of his beige corduroys, I will take
the leathered back
of his hand to my cheek
and hold it there, begging
his weathered roots to spread
their soil-caked fingers
long and strong
as deep as the generations will go.

(By Sarah Small. Copyright 2000. First published in The Yalobusha Review.)

1 comment:

  1. Must be something about Opa's and apples going hand in hand :) My dad has always been apple crazy since we were kids to and has quite the orchard of them but not quite as grand a scale as your father's must have been! Such great memories and how wonderful :)


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