Saturday, October 17, 2015

Apples in the Bucket

One of the things that I missed most in the decades that I lived and taught in Cincinnati was the experience of Autumn in Rhode Island. And key to that experience is the chomping of an apple from a local orchard. But not just any apple and not any orchard. I longed for a Macoun from Phantom Farm. I never found any like them in Ohio and I hoped each year. But now that I am back here I have found myself taking one of my favorite and most familiar rides up Diamond Hill Road to the orchard there. It is a favorite route because it was one I often traveled with my aunt Grace Jenckes Hartley to visit the graves of my mother in Mount Calvary and nearby the historical Cumberland cemetery on Dexter Street where my grandmother Ida Mowry and her first husband and her father and her mother are buried. Then we trailed up to Diamond Hill stopped to reward ourselves at THE DREAM MACHINE--a great and under-praised but always busy ice cream place across from Diamond Hill State Park. Then on to the glorious Oak Hill cemetery on Rathbun Street in Woonsocket to visit the Jenckes memorial and the graves of my father, Grace's brother, and all the Jenckes' who preceded us. On the way home we stopped to buy apples and cider at the Phantom Farm also on Diamond Hill Road. My aunt would buy RI Greenings for pie making, she made the best pies and taught me her pie crust secrets. I would eat the apple peels as she pared the apples.But for out of hand eating, I only had eyes for the Macouns. They are the crispest of apples; their skin is taut and sweet and the moist flesh of the apple seems to explode in flavor. I could never wait to get them home but ate one in the car. "You are so like your father; Norman made a religious experience out of eating an apple." I feel that whatever health and vigor I have I owe to the apples and cider. They help me and my body make the seasonal change. I love all the seasons, but as a child autumn was my special time. I felt it coming on in late August--you know what I mean there is a day in August when the breeze suddenly turns to a chill wind and you wish you had a sweater and you know the brief ecstatic summer is already leaving. She is very fickle here in Rhode Island. I always hope for a long lingering Indian Summer. Something to fend off the onslaught of winter. I liked the sledding and skating of winter and of course, the coming of Christmas. But the two months after Christmas, January and February, are cold and fierce. And the piles of snow freeze and re freeze and long out wear their welcome. As I am older now, I fear winter--with its snow and ice and freezings-- it seems scary and keeps me house bound. But let's not go there--not yet. This autumn due to my surgery and recovery I left my pilgrimage late. I did get to Phantom Farm and enjoyed sitting on their side deck in the painted rockers, sipping coffee and having an apple dumpling. But the Macouns were gone by. I took a bag of excellent Macintosh--but they are not the same as a Macoun--not as sweet and tart and not as crisp and firm and not as dark red. But learning as I am to treasure what I can do, I enjoyed the visit and relished the sparrows coming for crumbs and the "mellow fruitfulness" of the entire scene. Another Fall without Macouns-- how many more would I have to savor that special fruit. But I was wrong. A few days ago my friend Elizabeth called and said she was driving to an orchard that she loved in Wrentham to get apples, could she get some for me? I grasped at that straw and said--if they have any Macouns left please get me a bag. They did and she did. So this story has a happy ending--there are Macoun apples in the bucket. Every one is perfect and every one is like a time machine taking me back to sitting on the second floor porch of our tenement in Pawtucket and sitting with my father eating the crisp fruit and talking about it as we looked at The Daily Racing Form and he circled the "winners" for tomorrow's races.

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