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Comforted with apples

I'M sure my grandma and Father Time have some kind of conspiracy against me. Every time I drive up that street where the gardens sit neatly in checkered rows side by side, and the empty milk bottles wink and shine on the stone doorsteps, I get an uneasy feeling. And as I jump out of my car, and slam the door on the flurry of synthesized funk that tumbles out with me, I feel the trimmed hedges rustling with disapproval. It's always the same. I clatter up the path with my mind full of shopping lists and my arms full of groceries, and I push open the back door with my free foot and dump my delivery in a pile on the mahogany table. Freed of my bundle, I give Grandma a quick kiss on her cheek, and muttering greetings of homework, play rehearsals, and overdue library books, I hurriedly make for the back door. But for some strange reason, something always stops me from getting to that door . . . and last week was no exceptio n.

As I turned to head for the milk-bottle-guarded steps, she caught me. With a voice lighter than the dream topping on her trifle, she murmured, ``Oh, Kim, dear, would you mind bobbing upstairs and fetching me some more apples from the back room? I told your mum I'd make her a pie this week.'' Her ice blue eyes shone like the water in the stone birdbath outside her window, and I turned and headed quickly up the squeaky stairs.

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I spoke to myself with resolve as my feet touched the stair carpet which had borne many an illegal Christmas Eve scamper down to listen to the rumblings and rustlings of the packages in the front room. ``Now, Kim, you know this is only going to take you two seconds and then you really must be going,'' I reminded myself.

I opened the door quietly. The afternoon sun was playing across the lattice windows and falling in tiny stars onto the pink linoleum. The little fold-down bed stood by the oak dresser with the brass drawer handles. Everything was just as it had always been. I remained motionless as a multitude of memories paraded before me.

I remembered particularly the dresser sparkling in the spring sunshine one morning as it treated my waking eyes to a feast of foil-covered chocolate eggs. There were tiny ones snuggled in baskets of pink tissue, big ones shaped like Easter rabbits, and in the center, sitting with great majesty on a lace pond, was a swan bearing a precious cargo of chocolates between its wings.

Below the fairy soap bars and the metal bath was the cabinet that held all Daddy's toys and games from when he was small. Even the handmade Monopoly board, which he had so painstakingly worked on through long nights while the candle spluttered in the air raid shelter, had survived to give two generations of pleasure.

My attention was caught by the wicker basket in the corner embracing an armful of large green apples, each carefully picked, polished, and wrapped in a layer of the Burley Telegraph. Their sweet smell filled the room with recollections of blossoms, birdsong, and play.

Out in the garden the old apple tree leaned against the stone air raid shelter, scattering confetti petals on its roof. I watched the light slide between the leaves, and I'm sure I saw a grin laughing up at me and a pair of scratched legs covered with blackberry stains swinging between the boughs.

Dizzy with sunshine and the smell of apples, I turned back and my glance fell lightly on the basket. I vaguely remembered that I had come here for a purpose. Gathering up an armful of fruit, I skipped down the stairs humming.

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Grandma was just coming out of the kitchen: ``Oh, there you are, my dear! I was just fetching some milk and one of my queen buns: You will have one, won't you?'' I nodded happily and settled down in her armchair by the grandfather clock to watch the birds on the patio.

Grandma sang in the kitchen, and the old clock next to me joined in with a peal of deep, burly chimes. She came into the room smiling, and as she set down her tray of goodies, I could have sworn I saw her turn and wink at Father Time.

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