We went apple picking last weekend. Or we tried to go apple picking. Unbeknownst to us the apples were all gone. We drove for an hour plus, arrived at the orchard, noticed it was devoid of customers and got out of the car. We wandered around the grounds, passing pumpkins that didn’t get chosen for Halloween. Gift shops full of fall merchandise – apple pies, pumpkin butters, holiday jams. A petting zoo of farm animals. When we rounded a barn toward the apple trees they were bare.
That morning I talked Marc into visiting the area where my family picked apples when I was a child. I thought of driving through the hills of Eastern Kansas into Western Missouri – yellows, oranges, and brilliant reds wrapping the winding back roads. The picnic spot we often visited. Walking in the orchards under the tempered fall sun. I wanted to experience it again, but with my own children this time. Let them see and feel the same things I did. Recreate my fond memories to pass along to them as gifts. But, luckily, the folly in my plan was made clear as the day went on. Luckily, because it taught me something. Folly, because everything changes. It does, it must, and it’s good.
The leaves had all fallen by this first day of November, on which I hadn’t planned. A few specks of pale yellow remained, but mostly the bare trees of winter lined the roads. Then the orchard was picked through. We joked about the free rotting apples on the ground – “Would you eat that if you were the guy in Unbroken?” – but there would be no picking today. We tried another orchard close by, but the result was the same. Clearly apples in the same area are on the same ripening schedule. No apples here, no apples there.
I remembered this orchard. There had been a conveyor belt where you could watch how apples were sorted by color and quality. But it was turned off for the season. The only apples left to buy were Jonagolds which – yuck. The kids raced plastic ducks in a contraption made of feeding troughs and halved pvc pipe behind the main gift shop. I wandered the aisles looking at Christmas jam, trying to make the trip worth something, but it was no use. Jam wasn’t enough. We left with a jug of cider.
So it was a bust. As far as making memories goes. But for me it was a valuable way to waste a morning. Marc was kind. My motives were clear to him from the moment I suggested the trip, but he left me alone. He let me try, probably knowing we would fail. Because trying to recreate something that has happened before, especially something that carries the weight of childhood memories, is a dangerous goal. It’s bound to flop, and that’s good. My family now is new. Its own entity, separate from the family in which I was raised. So it makes sense to create new memories that are our own. My childhood memories can remain my childhood memories and retain their value. To me. And as we create what will be my children’s memories of their growing years, the burden is off to make them equal to mine or the same. I’m free to let them be what they are. No pressure. It feels wonderful to let that go.
What a silly thing to hold me down – fond memories. I feel a lightness in pushing them off. They can sit next to me, I can remember them when I want, but they won’t be a weight any longer. “Hi memories. I remember you; you were great. Nice to see you. Gotta go – new things to do.”
Luke and Lily came with me to Starbucks this morning, books and activities in tow. On our way from the car Luke told me about a memory he has of coming here with Marc, getting hot cocoa and playing games. They did that a few times one winter. And it hit me that I don’t have to try to make memories. They happen all by themselves. I just have to think about what I want to do, what we want to do, and do that. And it will magically, inevitably turn into a memory. And as long as those things don’t mostly suck, they will be fond. If we wrap them in love, and laughter, and especially if they involve a treat, they will be remembered as great. Even if they do suck, they might be fond. That’s how memories work, thank goodness.
In light of my new perspective of recollection, today I created the memory for my kids of getting chocolate croissants and reading while Mom wrote for her blog. Sitting at the window seat like a grown up. So simple. And so much better than a two hour road trip for apple cider. I’ll totally take it.