Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dried Apples

I'm sitting at my desk at school trying to grade papers when my stomach growls.  Sometimes I bring a snack when I know I'm staying late, but all I have in my desk drawer is a ziploc bag of dried apples.  I forgot I had them.  My grandmother sent them home with me during Christmas break.  They're not much to look at if you've never seen homemade dried apples.  Tannish-brown, shriveled and hard with the chewing consistency of leather.  I eat them slow, one curled sliver at a time.  As I hold each one in my mouth, they begin to soften and release their tart sweetness.  And each slice tastes slightly different.  The darker dried pieces have an after finish of molasses, while the lighter colors taste more like their former selves, fresh off the trees of what remained of my grandfather's orchard and its fence-straddling descendants.  I stop reading an essay to walk down into the hay field where they grew, look for the apples on the ground that hadn't been eaten by the deer the night before.  How many have I eaten, I thought, over the years?  I see my grandmother in the upstairs room of her house, leaning out the window to set screens of fresh apples slices on the tin roof of the back porch, fretting if the yellow jackets started swarming around them.  When all was canned or made into pies, she never let what she picked go to waste.  So as I sit at my desk letting each slice of dried apple soften in my mouth, I can't help but think of my grandmother's hands and the care she took in making them, so, five months later, I can have something to chew on.