This week’s prompt with the Red Dress Club asked us to describe your favorite fruit or vegetable: the first time you tasted it, where it came from, where you were, what memories it brings. I wrote about my favorite time of year: fall and the the memory of picking apples.
I meandered through the perfectly spaced trees that lined the rutted dirt path. The woven wooden basket, balanced just so on bent fingertips. Each step had my eyes searching until I caught sight of the weathered ladder leaning against the stout trunk. This was the only time my mother actually encouraged me to climb a tree and this, in and of itself, made the trip worth it.
I carefully climbed the paint worn rungs, aware of the buzzing bees that were busy at work sucking the last of the nectar for their honey. I carefully pulled myself up onto the thick branch, my foot safely held in the crook of branch and trunk. I steadied myself before reaching for the cluster of bright red globes, almost hidden behind the green oval leaves. I closed my grip gently around the closest sphere and gave a twist and pull. My first, freshly picked apple sat nestled in my palm.
I settled into a smooth rhythm of twist and pull and soon, my basket was brimming with fall fruit. My payment for such a labor of love? Finding THE one that had not been picked and placed with the others. Once located, I wrestled it from the grip of the branch and began to rub it back and forth on my shirt, spinning it slowly so that I cleaned the entire skin. A few more rubs for good measure and it was polished. Examining the surface, I searched for the perfect spot of red with freckles of green to take my first bite.
My teeth pierced through the thin skin with a snap, sinking into the tart creamy flesh. The juice was sweet which created confusion on my tongue but delight with my taste buds. Each crunch was as crisp as the first until reaching the seeded core.
When we returned from the orchard, my brother and I helped clean the apples in the kitchen sink. Then we were each handed an apple and told to scoot outside to play.
When we returned for dinner, the smell of dessert greeted us before even reaching the front door. As I stepped over the threshold, the smell of apples and cinnamon enveloped me in their warmth. After supper, I could not wait to dig my spoon through the crisp oatmeal topping to reach the soft, thick golden goodness underneath.
I still love to visit the orchards when the September sky turns that certain deep color of azure blue. I encourage my kids to climb to the highest branches to pluck nature’s perfection. We return home to bake overflowing pies, slowly simmered applesauce and of course the gooey goodness of apple crisp.
But, to me, nothing tastes as sweet as that freshly picked apple. Walking down the path, I am ten again, and with a few glances here and there, I spot my prize, trying to hide from view behind green leaves.