By Wendy Rhein
The crisp days of fall are my favorite ones of the year. More than any other season I channel my youth in the fall months. Friday night high school football games, sitting on surprisingly cold metal bleachers behind the marching band. Raking leaves. The feeling of breaking the rules by being out after dark when in reality we were coming home earlier than we had in the long days of summer. The waning days of the year before the insanity and chaos of the holidays is a time for reflection and memory for me, almost a time of preparation. Some folks look to Lent for that. I have college football season.
Every fall now, we go apple picking. Last Sunday we left the house early, hoping to beat the crowds of urbanites like ourselves bonding with their inner fantasy farmer. The drive was beautiful, a blissfully short highway drive followed by hilly but fast two lane roads, and then several miles of dirt roads and horse barns. My boys were singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at the top of their little lungs for the last 5 miles, which made me proud to pass on the quirky family love of John Denver. (Oh don’t tell me you don’t remember the words.) It was a perfect start to the day – clear weather, just inching into warm but still cool enough t o justify long sleeved shirts and hot cider in a Styrofoam cup. Perfect.
The boys bounded out of the car. We’ve now visited this same farm for three Septembers. The memories were so clear for me. Remember the first year when Sam was so little that I could put him in the picking bucket while I pushed the wheelbarrow up the hills into the orchard? He fell asleep in the sun surrounded by apple trees.
And last year, when Nathan was so frustrated that he couldn’t get the wheelbarrow up the hill by himself, his twiggy arms hoisting the wooden handles up to neck height, just to lift it off the ground. This year he went right to the stack of them, picked one out and pushed it up the long hill on his own, only looking back to smile at me.
We picked 28 pounds of apples in about45 minutes. Nathan believes in speed picking. I was more casual about it, taking the time to look at each apple on the tree, finding the ones I thought would be the most succulent, trying to imagine the sweet tang that comes with a tree-ripened apple. We filled our bucket and headed back to the hay and old tire playground for a few minutes of real kid time before caramel apples and cider were added to the treasure trove and we headed back to the car. Both kids fell asleep in about 7 minutes and I was left to spend a full 30 minutes of quiet time. Thirty minutes to reflect on how much they’ve grown. How much we’ve changed as a family in the last 3 seasons. To dream about what we could be like in another turning of the calendar. My Fall Lent has begun, my Ash Wednesday is apple picking. The season is here.