On a walk this morning with the dog I noticed, at the triangle park two blocks from our house, apples smashed on the ground. These were full-size apples, not the crab apples I see beneath our neighbor's tree. Kids, I thought, shaking my head which has been filled with thoughts of rotten kids since yesterday. Why would they smash so many apples? Then I looked up.
The tree, which has been there longer than I've lived here, is a real apple tree filled with ripe apples. Maybe a hundred of them hang from the branches in singles and bunches. The tree is wild and overgrown unlike those I'm used to at the orchards. The apples are way up high, no way to reach them. I imagined having to wait until one decided to fall and then trying to catch it. The whole thing would be an exercise in luck or futility.
A squirrel could have one any time.
I stared at those apples in the high branches, the dog waiting patiently at the end of her leash. They were so beautiful. I have a thing for apples and apple trees. They speak to me of life and sweetness and possibly even love. I looked down sadly at the fallen apples, food now for worms and beasts. How have I failed to notice an apple tree so close to home? It's as if I haven't been looking.
Our daughter has been diagnosed with an ear infection. My wife is taking her to the pharmacy for a prescription which should heal it. Harder to treat is all the difficulty of being a girl in high school with undependable friends who often ditch and then lie to her. She can't understand it and even though I can, I can't. It isn't that she is perfect, but she is devoted and she wants to be a real friend and have someone be a real friend with her.
I didn't much have this problem as a kid. I was blessed to meet someone when I was only a few months old and never again worried about having someone. My first wish for my girl would be to find that someone who will remain true and to whom she could remain true.
Teenage girls are often lying shits. I'm to the point of telling my girl to be brutally honest with her friends and maybe have them be the same with her. It might be a huge mistake. Honesty isn't necessarily always best. Still, this dance of "friendships" hasn't done her much good and I lean toward her stepping on a few toes. If they can't take it, she hasn't lost much.
Carl Richards in The New York Times wrote of discussing this question with friends: "If we were having tea three years from now in this exact same place...what would need to happen for each of us to be happy with those three years?" My answer begins like this:
I would want my family happy. I would want to have moved onto a new job, be writing and publishing, and feel healthy.
Like those high-up apples, these things feel difficult to reach, but of course they aren't. I'll encourage my daughter to tell the truth, brutal or not, and help her work through these things. I will keep applying for other jobs. I'm writing and publishing the blog. That's progress. And I am running, walking, and trying to eat well.
I keep waiting for apples to fall, but they're likely to fall from the other side of the tree and smash into the ground. My daughter keeps waiting for the tree to be nicer and offer more than the just promise of sweet fruit. Instead of waiting, we can carry a ladder from the house, lean it against a branch full of ripe apples, and I can hold it steady as she climbs up into the crisp autumn morning.
I imagine her climbing slowly, unsure and afraid but moving one rung at a time. I tell her it's going to be alright, I've got you. She climbs higher. As I look up, she disappears into the light of the sun. She calls down that the apples are perfect. Here, she says, in a voice that carriers her smile and happiness. Catch!