Phyllis Donovan: Picking Fall Apples Is A Happy Time

When the morning of 9/11 dawned sunny and bright last week like the day of that infamous attack on our nation, probably everyone's thoughts, like mine, returned to that horrific day when our­ lives changed forever.

Each year, the very date puts us all In a somber mood that lingers as long as those awlful images of the burning towers remain in our thoughts.

This year, however, I was pleasantly surprised early in the day when my son Brian sent me a text and photo of his grandson Thomas. Perched on the shoulders of his father Jack, mouth wide open in a happy squeal, the blond two-year-old was holding up an apple he had just plucked from a tree at an orchard not far from his grandfather's home.

His obvious joy in such a simple thing as picking his own apple was enough to make me smile through my sad thoughts that day. 

While they were there at the orchard, fighter jets, probably from Otis Air Force Base on their way to a flyover of a Boston memorial service, roared over them. Unperturbed by it all, in another photo our great-grandson was contentedly munching on that apple he had picked. 

All of that made my mind turn to the carefree days of the past when we would take our five offspring out to a nearby orchard to pick our own apples each year.

There is absolutely nothing like walking into an apple orchard on a sunny day with the cider-y smell of fallen fruit filling the air and the very sight of all those trees, branches hanging low with the weight of juicy ripe apples just waiting to be picked.

My favorites have always been McIntosh, macouns and empires which I always seek out first to fill my bag. At Lyman Orchards where we last went with grandchildren several years ago, they had the names of the varieties of apple displayed at the end of each row of trees.

Of course there were many old familiar kinds like both red and yellow delicious and the pie apples, Baldwins, Cortlands and Granny Smiths. (I remember on our travels in Australia passing the town where their now famous resident Maria Ann (Granny) Smith discovered the apple seedings, growing on a compost heap, which became her Granny Smith apples.) 

But along with a few of those varieties which went into our bag, we had to add some Jonathans and Galas and Japanese-developed Mitzus and Fujis. I can't remember what other hybrids they had growing there, but if there were new ones whose names struck my fancy, I'm sure they ended up in my bulging bag. 

On our last visit we had to rush to finish picking and return to our cars because it had started to rain. What a shame to have to leave behind all of those beautiful apples just hanging on the trees. 

But the whole point of our visit to orchards in those days was to acquaint our children, and later grandchildren, with the joy of going out to the orchards and experiencing the pleasure of picking their own apples right off the trees. 

There is one drawback however. Apples bought in small bags at the supermarket or those displayed at farmers markets are all neatly labeled. 

There is one drawbacck however. apples bought in small bags at the supermarket or those displayed at farmers markets are all neatly labeled. 

Once I'd get home with my big bagful of apples, it was hard to recall which kind was which. Except for a few obvious varieties, we couldn't tell one kind from the rest, no matter how hard we tried. 

But hey, who cares. An apple a day - or more, is always a delight no matter the variety. 

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