2010 marks our 6th fall season in Charleston. Since our first fall season, I’ve been wanting to drive up to NC to pick apples. For whatever reason, we had never actually done it, and I was determined to make it happen since we won’t be here next fall.
When we were getting ready for the trip, I told Will what we were doing, and he started crying (so much drama). When I asked him what was wrong, he said he didn’t want to go to North Carolina because he would miss South Carolina so much. No matter how hard I tried to explain to him that we were going to be gone for approximately 36 hours, he continued to cry about how much he was going to miss his bed. And Mo-om, the apple farm won’t even have any toys! Drama.
Despite Will’s protests, everything was going as planned--we grabbed dinner to eat on the road after our family pictures, and the boys fell asleep for the majority of the drive. They went back to sleep pretty easily when we got to the hotel, and as I fell asleep, I had visions of our happy family picking apples, maybe skipping through a meadow holding hands with flowers tucked behind our ears?
The next morning, the boys were kind enough to sleep in until 8:00 (WOW!), and as we woke up slowly I realized...CRAP. That thunder that woke me up at 6:30 was the precursor to a huge storm. What now? WTH were we supposed to do in Hendersonville, NC on a Sunday morning now that we couldn’t go apple-picking? How was I supposed to convince Will that I wasn’t wasting his precious toy-playing time in SC?
As we got up and around, thunder clapping outside the windows, Scott kept shooting me “What are we going to do with these boys?” and “We drove all the way up here...for what?” looks. After grabbing some waffles and boiled eggs in the continental breakfast room, we loaded up the car and started driving. I pulled out the complimentary Hendersonville-Flat Rock map from the hotel, and told Scott, “Don’t worry. The boys will think it’s fun because we’re going to make it fun! I don’t care if we stare out the windows of the car and talk about how pretty the trees are. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN.” I might have been a little on edge.
After making a pass through downtown Hendersonville (a town completely asleep because everyone was at church), I started worrying that we really were going to have to talk about how pretty the trees were, but as we moved outside of Hendersonville to Flat Rock, I spotted the answer to my prayers--the Flat Rock Village Bakery, which had a sign reading: Open Sundays 8-5. Hooray!
We ordered three items to split between the four of us (we’d already had our lovely continental breakfast): a savory tart (which Ben referred to as pizza), an almond croissant (which I’m not embarrassed to admit was eaten almost entirely by me), and an ooey gooey pecan sticky bun. As we sat down to eat, Will said with over-the-top enthusiasm, “THIS IS THE BEST BAKERY EVER.” (See, it’s all about making things seem fun even if it’s literally raining on your parade.)
In reading the map, I saw that Carl Sandburg’s historic home site was right up the road--maybe not the first activity a 5-year-old and 22-month-old would pick, but at least it would keep us out of the storm for awhile. Things started looking up as we left the bakery, as the rain had changed from downpour to shower to a light sprinkle.
By the time we parked at the historic site parking lot, the rain was basically a mist, and we started our 1/2 mile adventure through the woods to the house. As we ran up the trail, Will shouted back to me, “I’m winning!” I started running faster to catch up with him, and he laughed that big belly laughter that we somehow lose in adulthood and added, “Mom, we are on a superhero journey, and these woods are very dangerous!” He stopped suddenly, put both of his hands in the air and shouted, “THIS IS THE BEST ADVENTURE EVER.”
By the time we toured the house (with a very uptight park ranger) and the goat farm on the property, you would have thought we’d taken the boys to Disney World. Ben was entertaining himself by imitating the crowing roosters, while soaked from jumping in puddles. Despite a rough start (when the park ranger and Scott almost had a knock-down drag-out fight over the edge of Ben’s shoe stepping off the carpet), Will said his favorite part of the house tour was the first room because there was a stack of family games on the coffee table and he likes playing games. (I really, really love that Will could articulate this AND appreciate a tour of a historic home at age five. I was aware at that moment--and still am--how lucky I am to have him as mine.)
Leaving Carl Sandburg’s house, the sun was almost peeking out from the clouds and the rain had cleared out completely. (Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.) So, we headed back through downtown Hendersonville to the north side of town and pulled into Grandad’s Apples. We made our first stop inside the apple barn/store to get our picking sacks--two pecks would be enough, right? The lady behind the counter directed us to the winesaps and mutsus, and ten minutes later, we were back for more sacks. Two pecks later, we had golden delicious and granny smiths to round out a 1/2 bushel of apples (roughly 45-50 apples total!). The best part? It all cost $13.
We spent some time hanging out in the pumpkin patch and running through the rows of trees on another superhero adventure. The boys enjoyed some cold apple cider out of “apple sippers” (apple-shaped sippy cups), and I got an apple ornament to commemorate our trip forever. What we didn’t know before we visited Grandad’s Apples is that some of Grandad’s grandchildren also own Pit Boss Barbecue located on site, so when we were all appled out, we headed to the bbq trailer for some pulled pork sandwiches.
While we munched, Will sat back in his chair and sighed. With a million dollar smile he told me, “Mom, I don’t want to go back to South Carolina. This is the most beautiful place ever, and I am so happy in my whole heart.” (A far cry from the crying drama 28 hours earlier.)
So, everyone knows I’m a huge lit (literature not drugs) dork, so I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect a little on Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking.” Probably Frost’s second most famous poem, “After Apple-Picking” has been analyzed to death by undergrads for the last half-century. I’ve heard a range of interpretations about apple-picking representing sexuality to playing the stock market, but I tend to be a traditionalist. I think it’s a poem about reflection, and although Frost was looking back at life as an old man, it applies to my life, as someone who has spent the last few months reflecting A LOT in an effort to make sense of things. So, here’s the poem:
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
The beautiful thing about where I am in life right now is that I am not done apple-picking. This isn’t a poem that wraps life up in a perfect bow, reflecting with peace and joy. It doesn’t have a happy ending necessarily. And that is where I find comfort. I know that it’s okay to be unsure, to not be completely satisfied, to not rest assured that everything will be perfect. It’s okay that some of the choices I make are going to end up in the cider-apple heap. And I’m slowly but surely learning that it’s okay to leave some of the apples on the bough.
I get it, Robert, I do! I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired, too! Life does not always live up to our expectations, and THAT. IS. OKAY. Frost, I think, was tired after a long life, and I am tired after the short life I’ve lived thus far--tired of trying to always have my ducks in a row, tired of being everything to everybody. Tired and ready to change the way things are done around here.
My twenties were a time to “get stuff done,” full of accomplishments and accolades and fast-paced achievement. But thirty is ushering in a new era that includes being comfortable with being uncomfortable and being open to surprises. The future is looking bright (even if there are a few rain clouds hovering about).