The apples were perfect. Crisp and juicy
and smelling of crushed leaves and wood smoke in the hills. As I stood on the teetering ladder, dropping them into my bag, I thought of how my grandparents met, picking apples in Western Oregon, and how the story passed was that my Grandpa would say he shook her from an apple tree. The were only babes, young and old all mixed in with the future hanging off a tree branch.
Years later we gathered ’round my counter, the apples I picked between us as we split and cored each one, separating the fruit from the seeds. And dropping memories like cinnamon into the mix.
“Mama always said not to waste.” my mom said, carving around a brown spot to save the rest of the fruit for baking and sauce making.
We tossed the pieces into Grandma’s old roasting pot and set the oven temperature high, letting the kitchen fill with the scent of hot apples and memories. When they’d baked long enough to soften, we scooped them into Grandma’s press and used the old wooden pestle to mash and push out the sweet sauce to can and freeze. As my hands warmed the old wood, I couldn’t help but think of her, as she once was, before the Alzheimer’s took her away. I painted memories in my mind of what was and might have been. I brushed strands of fine hair back into a bun at the nape of her neck, and let the strokes fall to wisps around her face. I added the old apron, tied around her middle in a sturdy knot and made sure the light glimmered off the simple gold band on her finger. I blended the colors in the palate of my mind to just the right shade of blue for her eyes, and set warm crinkles on the edges. Lines of laughter and love and memories. And I watched as my children did the same, casting the memories of their mama and grandma at the counter, ancient tools in hand and the warm smell of apples and love in the air.