Apples, Halloween lights and Donuts: Love is the in Details

Yesterday I peeled a bushel of apples. I made apple butter in the crock pot, apple coffee cake, savory apple turnovers. The house smelled of caramelized onions, apples, cinnamon and allspice. The air from outside, as my husband and almost 4 year old came in and out smelled of cooler air that somehow carries less of the heavy chemical city air  that the summer holds. The day before we had traveled 40 miles to NJ to Moon’s Farm with friends. We took a hayride, had apple cider donuts, cider, and bought apples and pumpkins to bring home.

Standing in the middle of the farm stand, breathing in the sweet tart of apple as my eyes scanned the names– Pink Lady, Cortland, Red Delicious, I could see my grandfather’s hands in my mind’s eye. I could picture him pulling himself out of his suburban in east Tennessee, to head into a farm stand, his hand as it reached for a bushel of apples, a jar of pickles. “Get what you want Trace” he would say.

“Mom, mom, I can’t wait, can I have a donut?” Jonas asked, the smell of the freshly made donuts making my own mouth water.  “Yes, yes– get your dad– I’ll have one too.” I say.

With my grandparents, it was vegetables, fruit– food– that was given, more than toys. I hadn’t thought it that way before, but it is true.  I watch Jonas bit his donut. I wonder if his hands will be like Pop’s. “I want to be a farmer” he had told me recently. “That’s a nice idea” I said.

When I was on those road trips with Pop, I’d occasionally drift off to imaginings of me in the future– farm savvy and ready to meet the world the way he did. With an innate sense of the rhythm of things grown and growing. And then, my grandmother, always in tow. The one to prepare all of the goods he purchased and grew . The first time I took my husband to meet my grandparents, long before we were married, we sat on the porch of their home in Shady Valley for hours and broke green beans, the quiet barely audible sound of them dropping on top of one another mixing with the sound of my grandparents’ voices for hours. There was a meditative quality to the time it took to break a whole season’s worth of forerunners.

We recently finished our last jar of green beans  from my grandparent’s  garden, the last jar of Pop’s honey , and the final one of grandmother’s apple butter. The passing of this season of my life– when I was fed by the literal fruits of my family’s garden, is passing. And I wonder: what of these arts can I pass on? How can I bring that magic to my children, as a city dweller ?

Not these words, but the essence and spirit of them filled me yesterday as I made my own, my first, batch of apple butter. Jonas commenting on how yummy it smelled each time he came in or out of the house. As the day progressed, I dove more deeply into the quest to make things. As though in the art and act of preparing these things I was able to connect to that space and time, to those people no longer with me. I found myself very driven, as though, somehow, something critical depended on the tasks at hand: to preserve the season’s harvest for another time.

As I swayed Elias to sleep in the afternoon, laundry spread all over the floor, my eyes scanned the room. For a moment I saw the space not as I sometimes do: a place to clean, straighten, windows to repair. But as a home. My home; my children’s. I had the desire to make photographs of each section of the room— with all of its clutter and disarray. To then spread those photos out on the floor and start to name each thing I saw– to sketch out the poetry in each item, placed or misplaced as it was. The small line of yellow on the window frame, a mark left from the window crayons Jonas used for a week after his brother was born, to paint pictures, write his name, and pass the strange time of adjustment he had in becoming a big brother.

The long thin tube shaped grey piece of foam discarded in the corner, a left over piece of insulation we tried to use last year to block the draft under our front door. Since, it has been a scarf, a telephone, a weapon, and many other things in dramatic play.

In the living room, the plastic pumpkin lights flash where they hang on the mirror. Last year my parents brought them to Jonas as a gift. This year, a magic experience for my son: finding somewhere to hang them and turning them on. He sat watching them for at least 5 minutes of rapture. “They are beautiful” he said.

All of these things around me– they make this our home. I can feel the weight of each mundane thing, and by weight, I mean power. These are things  that shape us when we are busy living our lives. These are the details that we recall later: the Halloween lights made in China, the way our grandfather exhales as he steps out of the car, the sound of his boots on the farm stand concrete, the smell of apples and peanut shells on the side of the road, the apple cider donut that we eat warm, the smell of apple butter cooking as we come in and out of the yard on a late October morning.

It makes me feel the power of this moment and it holds me accountable to living deeply as long as I can.

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