When my boys were little, we lived in California. Every autumn, we'd drive to a local farm. A hay ride would take us to a barn heated by a huge wood stove, where we'd listen to stories of Johnny Appleseed while sipping fresh cider. The van would be heavy with boxes on the drive home, the smell of fresh apples promising deserts to come. For the next few days, our kitchen would be warm with the scent of pies, sauce, butter...all of the trappings of fall.
Over the years, I've scaled back a bit, but we still celebrate the change of season with a trip to our local apple farm. The farmer sends me a postcard of harvest predictions which I post on the refrigerator and we debate which type of apple we want for pies. This year, autumn was upon me before I noticed the post card was missing.
Taking my daughter, I drove up to Mount Vernon last week, visions of apple brownies dancing in my head. The familiar big red barn greeted us and we bounded through the door to a cold emptiness. The displays that usually held mounds of apples were empty, shoved back into a corner of the room. Had I missed apple season? I was sure I'd seen apples on the neighbor's tree this morning. The honor system box was still there, accompanied by the low hum of two ancient refrigerators displaying jugs of cider. A note from the owners explained that they were retiring but that their sons would continue to make and sell their cider...which I can buy at my local grocery store. I put money in the box and took a jug for old-times sake...and then spent the next 15 minutes explaining to my daughter why the apples were all "bye-bye."
As we drove away, my brain registered what I'd missed on the way in...a huge tract of recently cleared land, sporting large piles of up-rooted apple trees.