In the spring, when only dainty white apple blossoms dance in the sunlight, a simple promise rises in the air. Apples will surely grow interspersed with fire-colored leaves.
Click here to read my spring post “Apple Blossom Kisses.”
Every year our family expectantly waits for the first hints of fall when luscious apples emerge from apple blossoms. Only a few days have passed since my son rushed to the orchard entrance searching for a wagon. Finding one parked near the fence, he yanks it over the rough and rocky terrain to the path. “This is great. Come on. Let’s go.”
A cool breeze rustles the leaves as we walk through the apple orchard. Sweet apple scents rise from the trees rising high above us.
Clusters of Gala, Jonagold, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Fuji…cling to the branches. The two older children climb into the tall leafy trees to find red and golden treasures. “Look at this one. It’s perfect. Quick! Come get it.”
I stand below reaching heavenwards as small hands gently drop the fruit into my cupped hands. “Here’s another one. Watch out! Mom, don’t let it drop.” Laughter, pure exhilaration pours from the trees.
My husband stands steadfast with my youngest perched on his shoulders. “Reach! You’ve almost got it. You can get it.”
“Here it is. I almost touched the sky. Can you put it in the basket, Mom?”
“How do I get down?” A voice calls from a tree. “Just find the way you went up. Can you find the branch below?” “I got it. That’s so cool. Can I climb another tree?”
Running. Climbing. Picking. Laughing. We make our way down the row of trees. We emerge onto a ridge overlooking mountains stretching across the horizon. We stand long enough to capture the moment. “Let’s take a family picture.” “Mom, why do we always have to take family pictures?” “You’ll be really glad when you’re older that I took so many pictures.”
Apples jostle in the red wicker basket sitting on the wooden wagon. My strong boy strains, pulling the beautiful jewels back through the orchard. Empty baskets are always easier to handle, but a crown is waiting for those who carry the burden and don’t give up.
Piling around a picnic table, we savor every bite of warm apple cider donuts. Five donuts melt into our mouths. The extra in the half-dozen carefully divided between three sugar-coated children.
“Can we play on the playground?” “Yes, have fun!” Chasing each other around swings, running up steps and climbing over wooden beams they are captured in their own world. Sisters and a brother knowing they belong to each other. The times of fighting only proving the others will never leave.
We sit in the shadow of a big oak tree, my husband and I, watching our three gifts and talking. There’s laughter and joyful shouts all around, but sitting at the table alone there is solace.
We reminisce of other apple orchards when our children rode in strollers or held our hands. Riding hay wagons we snuggled together pressing out the autumn chill. We searched for the queen bee in the glass-boxed hive. Our children watched in wonder as apples tumbled through a giant press extracting sweet cider.
Sometimes one day seems like a never-ending marathon, but looking back the years appear as a sprint. Only my prayer journals, calendars and hastily written notes remind me of specifics that otherwise would be lost in a landscape of memories.
“Hi!” Three red-faced children wave from the playground fort. They need to know we are still where they left us. They are old enough to play alone, and yet their hearts hold a rope to lead them back to us.
Chasing each other to our shaded table, they collapse in laughter. “We have to take a picture by that sign. You know the one that says ‘How tall are you this fall’?” Each child smiles for my camera while stretching to reach the next painted line.
The sun slowly descends as we carry the large plastic bag filled to the brim with apples to our car. Three tired and satisfied children look out the windows as we drive down the mountain. “My favorite part was pulling the wagon.” “I loved climbing the trees.” “The apple cider slush was so good. Can we make some at home?”
I sit contentedly beside my husband who serves as the family’s designated driver. He’s our fearless navigator on all of our expeditions. I’m the snack distributor, conversation starter, book on CD operator, and at times referee. I trust him and he trusts me.
“I can’t wait for you to make homemade applesauce.” Click here for my recipe. “Mom, can you make an apple pie?” “Sure. We can have it with whipped cream.”
My thoughts float to the spring when there were only apple blossoms on the trees. The white flowers only a premonition of coming fruit. Now the juicy apples are the promise realized. Only the Creator can take a bloom and turn it into a crunchy, sweet delight.
My children are still young, but being formed and changed every day by the Farmer who knows how to make all things beautiful.
These children are magnificent today. I love them with all of their simplicity and exuberance for life.
And yet sometimes when they are fighting over who can eat the last ice pop, and when they are arguing about Saturday cleaning I let myself dream about a tomorrow when they always think about others more than themselves or cheerfully work without any reminders.
My Maker invades my thoughts and reminds me, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Tomorrow is not sure. Today is the day of promise. Today is the day God has given me to embrace my children in all of their strengths and weaknesses. These children are living their Creator’s plan for today.
I will hold my children today in full acceptance. I will embrace their childishness, and pray I will be more childlike. I will laugh with them when they say something silly. I will play more games and read more books. I will listen more and talk less. I will be more patient realizing I’m not perfect.
Click here to read my post “Embracing Imperfection, Accepting Grace.”
Today is a gift from the Giver of Life.
Copyright © words and photographs by Jane Carole Stein