I’m the kind of person who loves traditions.
When I was a kid, I loved – no, I guess needed – routine. I liked to be able to count on things, and I thrived on the sense of security my parents and large family of sisters (there were seven of us total, no brothers) provided. Change rattled me, so much so that when two of my older sisters left suddenly, according to my six-year-old perspective (one for college, and one who basically eloped), it threw me for a tailspin emotionally that almost prevented me from finishing my first grade year.
That sounds ominous, I know, and perhaps makes this blog post sound like it’s going to be about doom and gloom, but it’s not. Everything worked out, and life went on more or less smoothly in the long run (well, I’m still a little odd, but that’s just me, LOL).
This blog however, is about a tradition I’ve enjoyed for decades and that is one of the perks of growing up and living in upstate New York: Apple-picking! I’ve gone apple-picking every single year of my life. In fact, the joke around my house now is that if we don’t go apple-picking, I don’t make any apple pies that year. Except it’s not a joke. ‘Cause that’s my rule and I’m sticking to it. 🙂
I’m not fussy, though. We don’t have to go to a full blown “real” apple orchard like the one pictured at the left. In fact, before I was married we hardly ever went to a commercial orchard. No, we’d take a drive north to Buck Hill and the state land there, where there was a wild apple orchard, created by nature. The apples were almost always smaller than apple orchard fruit, or pocked and imperfect in other ways – but they also had no pesticides on them and they were tart and crisp, resulting in pies, applesauce, and other baked goods that tasted amazing.
My parents eventually planted two apple trees in their yard, one in the front, and one in the back, of different varieties. These ended up being very similar to those we’d find in the wild (probably because my father never sprayed them with chemicals). Still plentiful like in commercial orchards, but smaller and imperfect on the outside. The picture on the left is from quite a few years back, when my father was still alive, and one sister and I gathered with our families one weekend at the Homestead to pick apples and have supper with Pa and Ma.
Here I am, getting ready to use the apple-picker lying on the ground near me (more on that handy tool in just a minute) and finally just below is one of Pa in his place at the table, talking to my sister before supper.
Okay, so here’s more about the apple-picking tool: When I was dating my soon-to-be-husband, he’d come to visit me at the Homestead, and we’d pile into the van to drive up past Steuben and a Revolutionary War monument there where a tall, wild apple tree with gorgeous golden apples grew. My husband earned a reputation for his skill at wielding that awkward-but-very-useful apple-picking tool….a long wooden handle topped with a curved, coated wire “basket” of sorts, with little spiky fingers of wire to help grasp the high fruits, pluck them from the branch, and bring them safely to the ground. Maybe it’s because he’s tall and has strong arms and back (yeah, I love my guy!), but he could get to just about any apple I asked him to get for me. 🙂
Over the years, apple-picking has become a beloved tradition that is more about the family and memories made together, than it is about the fruit we gather and pies or other baked goods that result. Pa’s death brought those memories into even sharper focus, knowing there will be no new ones to add to the collection.
And so each year the act of going apple-picking, whether at an orchard, at the Homestead, or in the wild, is both familiar and new – a kaleidoscope of images, feelings, laughter, and the comfort of sharing a simple pleasure with loved ones, and I’m so thankful for the many years I happy times I can think back on.
Traditions like these mark the moments in our lives, giving context to the whole and adding to the beauty of the tapestry. When times are challenging, such memories can bring joy that helps to balance out the rest.
As you can see, I’m a believer in the beauty and value of traditions. 🙂 Seasonal or otherwise, do you have any that you love?