Friday, April 20, 2007

12-Year-Old Applesauce

The label, a scrap of freezer tape, is written in happy blue ink:
Applesauce 1994. It’s now 2006. Who would eat
12-year-old applesauce? In a can, it would bulge
with bacteria. Under a plastic lid, it has grown a hard layer
of frost and the beige skin known as freezer burn. I chip off
the ice, cut away the burn, and wait impatiently
for the fruit of my long-ago labor to thaw.

In 1994 my husband was alive. A year away from his downward
slide, he understood every growing thing on this property.
Carrying old trusted tools, he planted and pruned
our fruit trees. The cage of his hand-held picker reached
the uppermost Macs, bright in the sun, while I gathered
bruised drops in the grass. He never failed to praise
my pies, cakes, and cobblers. And applesauce, every vintage.

In 1994 my daughter Jill was alive. She was 19, a horsewoman
and clarinetist. An artist in the kitchen. Together we
rolled these red apples around in green buckets of water,
drained them, cut them into crisp pieces, set them to melt
and bubble in a vast pot on the stove, inhaled their goodness,
exhaled our mutual feelings of pleasure and security
in this ritual, touching shoulders, hands, chakras.

In 1994 my mother was only a phone call away. Holly, the gentle
black lab mix, had another two years left. The cats, acquired as a group,
were at mid-life. The horses were here then—Jill’s horses, her father’s
horses, gone now, leaving behind walls of blue ribbons.

With only a few ice crystals remaining, the applesauce receives
my spoon. I hold its pink sweetness in my mouth, trying
to swallow slowly, to keep this bliss on my raw throat
as long as possible before it slips away.

10 comments:

Mali said...

Wow - shivers and tears.

JHK said...

This is just beautiful.

Cedar Waxwing said...

This is one of the most beautifully written posts I've ever read. Thank you.

Susan said...

Thank you all, so much.

crystal said...

Susan, that was very moving!

mm said...

This really is special. I remember reading it some time ago, but I can't remember where.

Susan said...

I probably emailed it to you, MM.

Helen said...

mm just told me about this blog (thank you mm). This is incredibly moving...

Indigo Bunting said...

Tearing up now. This is incredible. It should be regularly anthologized.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing this Susan. It's beautiful.

If you haven't read Tamar Adler's book, I highly recommend it. There is a beautiful chapter about food and memory, and another about food and the people with whom we share it.