Apples and My Grandmother

This was a post I wrote in September of 2006, on a blog I no longer use, but keep archived. I wasn’t married, had no kids, and my husband was still just my boyfriend. Seems like eons ago now.

I decided to share it today after reading a post by Amber Strocel over at Strocel.com as part of her Crafting My Life series. Her post today is on what makes her house her home, and why she is proud of it.

Her post reminded me of how much I love where I grew up, and how much I miss parts of it, especially in the Fall. This is one of those parts.

——————

Afternoon had slowly crept the sunshine to the back of the house, and through the window by the stove, I could see my dog sunbathing, his little pink and black splotched belly exposed to the weak Fall rays. His chew toy beside him, he was the picture of doggy contentment. He saw me looking out the window, and perked his ears, before flopping back onto the deck, completely horizontal, rotund midsection and wee legs sticking out in all directions. I couldn’t hear him, but saw the huge doggy-sigh escape from his tiny body, and I smiled.

I turned back to the stove, wooden spoon in hand, and wiped my hands on my apron. Steam from the huge pot in front of me evaporated up and filled my nostrils with the scent of brown sugar and cinnamon. Apples jumbled about in the pot, and as I stirred, the *spluck-spluck* of the syrup bubbling between the pieces of fruit echoed into the kitchen, disturbing the quiet.

Today I woke up and felt really worn out. You know those mornings. The ones where the monumental effort to swing feet out of bed and face the day is almost not worth the pain and suffering you are sure to experience if you do so. I have been battling a cold, and for the past two days, have dragged my sorry carcass into work and coughed and hacked and sniffled and sneezed.

So I stayed home. Something held me here, whether it be comfort in my big warm bed, or my cold finally winning.

Today was one of those days where I was able to just sit, be quiet for awhile, listen to the noises around me, take in my home, and feel good about it. Fall has a way of bringing out the cocoon instinct in me, and in the Fall, I love my home’s colours and inviting warmth of the wood stove. I love my farm. I take long walks in the Fall.

Today I made applesauce. Not just applesauce made with store bought apples, but from apples right from my backyard! We have two apple trees on the West side of the house. Two years ago, we thought the Wealthy apple tree was dieing, since it had lost a huge branch, and was slowly getting rattier and rattier. It bore no apples last year, and lost another big branch. We feared the worst.

This year, the fruit it produced was plentiful, and massive! I was excited, thinking about the uses for these apples. Not since I was a child had I seen so many apples on this tree, and it was marvelous to see the tranformation from dieing scrub to healthy leaves shimmering in the breeze!

Now, we don’t spray these apple trees, so the fruit did have some malformations, and of course, scab across the skin. Scab is very common, and harmless, but makes the apple look icky, and thus producers spray for it so that they can sell nice shiny red apples. I had picked some on the weekend (The good windfall and the ones I could reach), and I proceeded to peel and quarter them.

As I sat in the kitchen, cutting apples, I suddenly felt not alone.

I looked up, but the only set of eyes looking back was the dog, anxiously waiting for slivers of apple from my clumsy quartering. Having arthritis means every now and again, the apples would slip out of my hands and go flying off in any direction. Annoying, but humourous, since the dog was waiting just for that! He would pounce, and trot off with his bit of apple, tail wagging.

But this sensing was different. It wasn’t an eerie feeling, or uncomfortable. I just felt like someone was with me. There was an aura of happiness, and of peace. Of familiarity, and love. I don’t know if it was my body finally de-stressing, and me realizing that this is what I am supposed to feel like, all happy, and I got the maybe-you-shouldn’t-work-so-hard vibe…. but, in all that, I felt very safe, secure, and happy right then. Perhaps it was God talking to me, giving me that hug He knows I need every so often.

I also wondered if maybe my grandmother was with me, proud of the fact that her granddaughter was making applesauce from the same tree that she and her family had made applesauce from for many, many years.

When my dad was growing up here, he said they kept the apples to eat over the first half of winter, since they were always so good and sweet. He said his mom would make applesauce from them as well. I wondered, as I sliced and peeled away, if perhaps I was mirroring her stance, standing at the kitchen table, a bowl of peelings to the side, another bowl of water and apple quarters in front. I wondered how many times in her life she did just this, with family coming in for lunch, or bustling about on the farm around her.

I had pulled a large pot down off the wall to boil the apples in, and as I added the brown sugar and cinnamon, I wished that I had met this woman. My grandmother died when my father was still in his 20’s, before I was even an idea.

so as I stirred and watched the dog out the window, I thought of all this. How sometimes life circles back. I did feel her presence then, or what I hoped was her, and I stopped for a moment. It felt similar to when I made her peanut butter cookies for the first time. I distinctly remember having this stange feeling of someone helping me to put the crosshatch of fork scores on the top of the cookies, then dipping the fork in the hot water to do the next one.

Dad loved those cookies, saying they were just as good as he remembered. I can remember feeling proud right then, and even though it was sad to know that he might’ve missed his mom right then, I had brought back a good memory of her with this simple recipe. I need to make some soon.

I think sometimes I am inadvertantly trying to bring back good memories of this place, or make new good ones. We certainly have some bad memories, and some traumatic ones over the years. As I have gotten older, I have tried to make this farm ours now. Maybe not in the physical sense with renovations, but in the memories I can bring for my father, when things here were simpler, happier. Memories of his mom, her cooking, the way they used to live on this land. I know I can’t replace her, or remove the bad from the time that has passed. But I know I can grasp the good memories and make them new with old traditions.

As I have gotten older, I have appreciated just how much of my heritage is on this place, and how much it really does mean to me. I would love to be able to stay here, raise my children here, but I also know that I need to travel and live in other places to experience life, our earth and all it has to offer us. But this will always be home. This will always be the place that I feel the most at ease and happy. Despite the bad memories. My family is here, some just in memories. But here they are.

So if it means harvesting the apples off these trees and making applesauce, and picking raspberries to bake pies with, then I’ll do it. If it means making shortbread, and cookies, and maybe even the odd roast turkey using my grandmothers pans, I will find the time for myself to do it. Its important to me, I think, and maybe just as important for my dad.

I even have a mixing bowl that was hers, that I still use to mix dry ingredients. I won’t use it for blending, since I don’t want to mark the surface with the beaters. That bowl means the world to me.

I hope my grandmother approves of what I am trying to do, and maybe how I am helping myself to understand who she was, and to love this place the way she did. This was her family home, then when she married my grandfather, the farm was passed to her and grandpa. Then, it was passed to my dad, and now… if in my life plan it comes to pass, it will be mine and my family’s.

Now I sit typing this, and thinking that today, taking a sick day, was a good idea. I was able to get the rest of the apples picked, thanks to a neighbour’s help, do some laundry, have a nap, read, play with my dog, and take the knots out of my back.

I also had a great visit with my grandmother.

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