I’ve had a poignant and poetic blog post floating around in my head for a few days now. It is by Crooked Eyebrow. It speaks of dancing leaves, winds that howl, a tree… and apple pies. This post speaks to many. And it speaks to me in a way that is almost impossible to explain.
It moves me. I think it’s how the words dance. And howl. And fall. The words mean something. Something so personal to the writer, and yet so deep and wide to the world, too.
It’s the apple pies that got to me. The memory. The Michigan apples that my Grandma and Grandpa brought in bushels and bushels to my home so long ago. I was thirteen years old, just finding my way in a new place, a new school, a new home. My family had moved from New Hampshire to Rhode Island just a few weeks before, and I was struggling to find my way in my new surroundings. I had left a little town school with 50 students in my entire 7th grade… to find myself in a large city school with hundreds of students in my 8th grade class. I was free falling, like Crooked Eyebrow’s leaves. I desperately needed something familiar.
Then my grandparents came to visit. They drove their rickety red truck from Michigan… and they arrived on a spectacular fall Friday afternoon in October. The back of the truck was filled with bushels and bushels of apples. The apples are what would come to life again as I read Crooked Eyebrow’s poem.
These were my Dad’s parents. My dad’s mother and stepfather. My dad’s father had died when my dad was a little boy from World War I injuries… and my grandmother had married a farmer who had immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia. My dad always told me how hard life was on that Michigan farm, but to me it was Grandma and Grandpa and strawberries in the summer and apples in the fall. My grandfather spoke with a heavy accent, but when he was with his fruits and vegetables, he glowed with the honor of working the land in his new country. My grandma was a tiny woman with beautiful, soft hair and a brilliant smile. She loved her apples…
As I ran to the truck, I noticed that my mom was crying. She was in my grandfather’s embrace, and he was whispering to her. My dad was hugging his mom with one of his famous hugs. We hadn’t seen my grandparents in a couple of years…
My grandmother’s eyes locked with mine – I’ve always thought I look like her – and she began to tell me about the apples. And the pies we would make. Then she looked at my dad and said the words I will never forget… “He’s such a nice man. I think I know him.” My world crashed. My mom whispered to me through her tears that Grandma was suffering with memory loss. Dementia. The onset of what we now know as Alzheimer’s.
Grandpa and my dad lifted all those bushels of glorious apples from that rickety truck… and I began to piece together that this may be my last visit with Grandma. I was heartbroken. But, you know, the visit was one of the most beautiful weekends of my life. Grandma did remember exactly how to make apple pies. We made 18 pies that weekend. I helped her wash them. Core them. Slice them. Sweeten them. Oh, boy… did we sweeten them. She taught me how to make perfect pastry shells. And we baked those apple pies all weekend long, cooling them on our windowsills all over that new home of mine. Grandma had moments of clarity when she actually called my dad by his name, Bill. She loved our family dog, Chippy, and she told me about every dog she had ever owned and loved. She told me how much she loved my mom… and she called her Rita many times over. And yes, she did call me Susie. But that’s not because she didn’t know my name… Grandpa had wanted my name to be Susan, so Grandma and Grandpa had taken to call me Susie. That’s the truth.
I think as I reflect back that I became a different person on that weekend in the fall making apple pies with my Grandma from Michigan. I realized what a miracle life is. And love. And when my Grandma and Grandpa drove away in that rickety red truck on their journey back to Michigan… I knew in my heart that I would never see my Grandma again. I didn’t. She died the following year.
But I will always have my apple pies. My Grandma’s apple pies. And that is why Crooked Eyebrow’s blog post has been dancing in my head all of these days. That’s why I read it as a poem. It came from far beyond my laptop.
One never knows the impact that a word or a couple of words strung together may have on another. It is beyond magic. It is beyond a miracle. “Apple pies.” Crooked Eyebrow’s words. A bittersweet moment in time recalled… with so much more emphasis on the “sweet” than anyone could possibly know.
This is why I love reading the blogs of so many wonderful people. It is magic. It is a miracle.