I love this time of year, apple time. For a day or two or three, I reminisce of other places in time, simpler places and less complicated times. It all started over 50 years ago when I watched my grandmother peel apples to make an apple pie. I was spellbound watching the peeling coils fall into a pan, and I never forgot. Thirty years later, when I was a young mother of three little boys, I wanted to go back. I didn’t want some of these domestic skills (or in my opinion this art) to be forgotten. So I asked my mother to gather up the family apple butter recipe and come and visit for a few days. She brought all the necessary equipment along with the recipe and I learned what made up a bushel and half bushel of apples, became acquainted with a ricer and the manual work associated with it, and finally felt the satisfaction of hearing my jars filled with precious treasure seal with a ping. The day started early and ended late but has always been the most rewarding job I have ever known. What started as a novelty idea turned into my own ritual over the next several years – this time of year – autumn. I made apple butter/apple jelly gift baskets as Christmas presents (the boys loved both), and somehow this annual ritual eventually turned into fundraisers for church and little league baseball teams – bushels and bushels of apples. It was, indeed, a great deal of work; and after a decade of this and back at work in the corporate world, I decided I simply no longer had the time – to the dismay of many. I “mothballed” the ricer my mother had given me.
A couple of years ago, the boys now off in college, I prepared to move into smaller accommodations. I could not bear to part with my ricer. In fact, finding it packed away deep in a closet, brought back the desire once again to return to simpler times. That fall, I made a trip to the apple orchard and secretly made several batches of the family recipe which I distributed that Christmas. Everyone was thrilled. Last year, I was consumed writing Reflections. Some people suggested that I simplify the process, but I could not bring myself to do that. I would do it the way I was taught or not do it at all. In many ways, it is therapeutic; and I feel I am honoring my heritage.
A couple of weeks ago, I set out for a day trip to a small rural town’s fall festival. Main Street was blocked off; entertainers performed on the courthouse steps; craftsmen and women displayed their talents; and, yes, there were apples from a nearby apple orchard. This time I purchased a modest bushel. The next weekend, I unpacked my ricer and returned to my roots. Soon the smell of apples and cinnamon filled the house. My body experienced a few more aches than it did when I was thirty something. But as I headed up the stairs to bed that night, I heard the final jar “ping” and somehow the aches didn’t matter. You know what? I think I smiled a little more that week. Perhaps I worked out a bit of stress, and my joy from completing a project the old-fashioned way brought a satisfaction that my laptop couldn’t match. Yes, I think I’ll just have to keep that old ricer and the wooden grinder too! Thank you Mammy!
(Addressed in “Reflections” Chapter 6)