We live on a quiet street in the suburbs. The most beautiful feature of our front yard is the apple tree. In the month of May the tree resembles a gigantic puff ball of white flowers that is so astoundingly beautiful, we sit on the steps in the evening, to smell the fragrance, listen to the bees and drink in the perfection of nature.
However, in the autumn our gorgeous apple tree gave us grief. Some pies and crumbles were in the freezer, but the apples kept on coming... dropping to the ground where they'd rot or get shoveled up for the garbage... until the year we had new people move in next door. They were a couple who had kids the same age as ours, and had originally come to Canada from Croatia.
That fall I was in the front yard, picking apples up from the lawn. Dragor, the neighbour pulled into the driveway, said, "Hello... lots of applies this year, I see."
I replied... "Help yourself if you want some..." He took a second look, and said, "Are you sure?"
"Oh, yeah, at this point they're a pain... too many for us to deal with."
Dragor said "I can get them all cleaned up for you."
"I'd like nothing better."
The next day I came home from work to find our front lawn a bee hive of activity. Three step ladders were under the apple tree, a few lawn chairs on the grass, and boxes, plastic tubs, and bags were everywhere. Dragor had called his relatives to say we had apples to give away. They arrived in the afternoon, and by the time I got home from work, the tree was stripped of every apple on it. Every single piece of fruit that had fallen to the ground was picked up. Dragor came over to the car with a big smile on his face. "We're almost finished." I was delighted that the apples were being looked after and not wasted.
I have to admit that life in the suburbs where green lawns, ornamental fruit trees and near-by supermarkets can distance us from the realities of being fed. Our similar houses can mask the difference in experience and culture of the people who live right next door to one another.
I'm happy to say that we now have a tradition. In the autumn we plan a Saturday for the Croatians to come over. All of us - mums, dads, kids, aunties and uncles pick, peal, core and bags. It still astounds me that together we can take care of that much fruit and how many of us have so much delicious food to put away for the winter. In the evening we have a barbecue and share some of last year's apple liqueur. We toast the tree and listen to the stories that have taught us about food, hunger, opportunity and gratitude.
The apple tree has fed our family in so many years... it's a treasured, spectacular tree.