Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)
TITLE: A Place of Childhood Joy
By Judy Watters
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It was here that our family enjoyed many picnics and family get-togethers. Family reunions were held in our orchard, and Daddy would barbeque the best barbequed chicken around on the cinder block fire pit that he built. As the reunions would fade into the evening hours, everyone would sit around the fire pit and roast marshmallows on twigs cut from the apple trees.
In the winter, Daddy would tap the maple trees that lined our road and put frozen buckets of maple sap in a huge pan on the fire pit to cook all day. As the iced sap would melt and eventually start boiling, Daddy would add dozens of egg whites to the liquid. I liked to watch the egg whites start to cook and mysteriously turn to a very dirty froth of debris and impurities. These impurities would be allowed to cook for sometime before they were skimmed away and more egg whites would be added. By the time he started to pour the liquid into jars, it had become a beautiful see-through auburn color. My mouth would water just to think of that sweet syrup over Mom's pancakes.
And what pancakes we had! Many Saturday or Sunday mornings, Daddy would take the pancake griddle up to the orchard and put it on top of the fire pit. We would all gather at the picnic table for eggs, bacon, hot applesauce, and hot maple syrup poured over Mom's famous pancakes. For an added treat, we would have strawberry shortcake, fresh from the morning garden, for dessert.
After Daddy sold off the chickens, he pulled the chicken coop up to the orchard and made it into a playhouse. Uncle Bill, a window decorator for Macy's, saw his opportunity to put his expertise to work. On his trip to the farm that summer, he brought a car full of corrugated paper that he put up in the chicken coop. Immediately, we had a red brick fireplace that looked like it had real fire and a bookcase that looked so real I thought I could actually grab onto the book of Peter Pan.
We played house and read books throughout the summer and fall in that playhouse. Many summer nights would find us lying on old quilts listening to the branches of the old apple tree brush on the tin roof. I loved snuggling up with my big sister while she told me a story as I drifted off to sleep.
It was in this orchard where I smoked my first and last cigarette. I waited until Mom left on an errand. I ran to the orchard, scurried up the green apple tree, and lit up. The first puff was disgusting, so I thought I would cut the bad taste with a green apple. The tartness of the apple filled my mouth with a puckering nicotine flavor. I figured a few more puffs mixed with a few bites of apple would help. Somewhere in between puffs and bites, I almost fell out of the tree vomiting. I never smoked another cigarette again.
My Aunt Marolyn and Cousin Sharon came one time for a week of camping in the orchard. They were "courting" the neighbor boys at the time and so it was convenient for the four of them to sit around the campfire at night and "get to know each other better." They later married these boys and I like to think they all fell in love in our orchard.
Yes, our orchard was an active place. A place where family gathered, cousins played badminton and croquet, uncles played horseshoes, aunts and grandma visited. It could also be a quiet place to take a blanket and curl up with a good book under any one of the trees.
I visited that orchard last year; it has changed. Many of the trees are gone; the playhouse with the big apple tree's limbs hanging over it as if to protect those within...all gone now. But the memories of that orchard still play a great symphony in the recesses of my brain, and no one can ever take that away.
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