I have a little snapshot in the album of my memory of a carefree fall Saturday morning. I’m about ten years old. I’m in Levi’s and a stripped tee-shirt with a red wool ball cap. I’m sitting on the front steps warmed with sunlight. The sky is bright blue and clear. Overhead maples flame with color and wave their branches out over the road. I’m eating a Jonathan apple. Dad is working on the old black Studebaker that he bought from an elderly man in Bellefontaine for fifty dollars. The car radio is tuned to a big-ten football game. The Buckeyes are running up the score against one of their lesser opponents. It must not have been the Michigan game – probably Northwestern, Minnesota, or Indiana. I finish my apple and toss the core across the road into Jew Knights yard when no one is looking.
I love apples. Once they even inspired me to poetry. This may be the best poem I have ever written:
An apple is miracle,
a marvel, and
a wonder of God’s creative power.
In the three or four minutes it takes to eat an apple you have experienced
The patience of winter snows
the promise of springtime blossoms,
the product of warm summer days,
and a piece of autumn
in the palm of your hand.
I love apples. I was on a pastoral visit the other night and a sweet young lady in our church put a dish of warm apple-crisp and cold vanilla ice cream in my hands. I love apples, especially in the fall – especially crisp, cold, sweet apples with a hint of tartness – especially on a Saturday morning. Sometimes, when I bite into an apple I am back on the steps of the little white parsonage in Logansville, Ohio and I am a little boy again with a shock of blonde hair sticking out from my ball cap.
When I was in the third grade we lived for a while in Battle Creek. We had an apple tree in our back yard that produced hard little green apples. The apples never amounted to much but they made good “flicking.”
Apple-flicking is a lost art. Dad and Uncle Bill taught us this. It was an art they had learned of necessity in their simple childhood when money and toys were scarce and children had to improvise. They took a long branch from the apple tree and sharpened the end of the branch with a pocket knife. They then pressed a small green apple on the end and used it to catapult the apple three or four times as far as a little kid could throw one. We did this for hours. It was especially fun to bounce the apples off the neighbor’s house across the deep valley where the train tracks separated our row of modest houses from the more prosperous ones across the way. The neighbor kids tried valiantly to return fire with rocks, but to their frustration, their rocks fell short to the railroad tracks. Mercifully the kids didn’t find their way over to our house and beat us up and it remains a warm memory in my mind.
Autumn is a great time to take some time to do simple things with your children or with your nieces and nephews that will put a smile on their face many years from now and miles away when you are on old man or woman. An afternoon of apple-flicking wouldn’t cost you a dime but it might yield a priceless memory. Maybe it would even offer you an opportunity to turn a question into a memorable lesson about the timeless things of God – to answer the questions that cloud their souls. An apple pie or a glass of apple cider might have the same effect.
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania
October 10, 2008