When we lived in the butter yellow house on Longview Avenue--the one with the best backyard ever--one of the things that made it most special was a trio of apple trees that grew in the back corner and along the side yard. They were sisters, gnarly and old as all get-out.
Their trunks were strong and thick, and their branches were as big around as our legs and they twisted all over the place. They were perfect trees to climb, which we did all the time. We hung upside down from one of the lower branches, or sat in the perfect turns and twists of the branches, swaying with the breezes in spring and summer, and huddling in the fall. Their branches were full of stubs which would either poke me as I leaned on them while sitting, or prod and scrape as my hands grabbed to pull myself higher up into the canopy.
Their fragrance in the spring was divine and sitting among the blossoms and bees as the buds slowly opened in the sunshine was a world unto itself. Soon firm round fruits would start to grow, at first hard, tiny and green, then swelling and ripening into blushing, juicy apples that we could pick and crunch on in the fall.
Playing in and among these trees is when I began to have a sense of the duality of this world, when in the fall, the trees would shed the apples that were not collected or eaten, and the ground would be covered with them. This became true Wellington territory, as some of the apples rotted and became mostly applesauce--brown and gushy, that we had to slush through as we did our father’s bidding.
He would send us out with brown paper grocery bags to fill with the fallen apples. This was in the days before they made plastic grocery bags; paper was all anyone had and it had its very own wonderful crunchy brown smell. My sister and I would pick the apples up one at a time and drop them into the bags. We didn’t have gloves, which would have made this process much more efficient, so we were careful to pick them up just between one finger and a thumb, with the other fingers of each hand stretched out to avoid the rotten spots and worms and bugs getting on us. The juice would drip over our hands and up our sweater sleeves to our elbows making us feel sticky all over.
The fragrance around these beautiful apple trees at this time of year was sweet and strong--a bit past ripe, and the soft summer breezes had turned to chilly winds snapping our hair across our faces and putting roses in our cheeks. Sometimes the apples would drip so much juice into the brown paper bags the bottoms would fall through as we dragged them across the yard over to where my Dad would prepare them for disposal. Those times we’d have to pick them up all over again and plop them into a fresh paper bag, shaking the juice off as we went and examining the worms and bugs left in the bottom of the bag once we’d gotten them all transferred over to the new bag.
Sometimes our reward from our father for a job well done was a shiny new dime per bag – we’d get about five to eight bagfulls; the trees were fruitful indeed. I liked to spend my hard-earned money on bazooka bubblegum because I loved the comics enclosed in each piece, and I could get 10 pieces for a dime. I loved to blow huge pink bubbles and chew to my heart’s content. I learned that duality has a silver pink lining, yum, and that this kind of work is GOOD.