To our family, apple picking served as the official kick off to fall. We had done it together the past 20+ years religiously with my kiddos. Before the huge orchards really became popular with all of the petting zoos and bounce houses and whatnot that they have there now. Not trying to say we were the OG of apple picking, but it’s been our thing as long as I can remember.
Dad would get the mailer in August from a small family owned orchard in Woodstock, and would be ready to get there that following weekend. I personally prefer to do ANYTHING fall related when I can wear a flannel and jeans – but ohhhh no. We went in late August or first week of September at the latest! He was chomping at the bit to get his VERY SPECIFIC jonamacs and get his ass home and make his applesauce and pie.
Through the years, as the kids got older, Mom and I thought it might be cool to try some other places that DID have fun things for kids to do along with apple picking. Dad went. But tapped his foot like a kid just itching to get to the APPLES! So… you guessed it… we could get home and start baking!
I have hundreds. Literally hundreds of photos of us doing this together.
Over time I started making my own pie. Dad’s was straight forward apples a LITTLE sugar and some cinnamon. How he liked his dessert: not too sweet and not too rich. And.. well I DO enjoy some decadence sometimes. I like a lil brown sugar up in there. I started experimenting with other apple pies and made some ridiculously amazing caramel apple bars (still my favorite fall dessert). And of course… we talked trash about it. I challenged him to a pie bake-off. We made our pies but it was super lame because I like my way and he likes his.
In future years we extended the bake off to our family and friends. A few years back we had about ten pies. Three blindfolded judges (friends and neighbors) and they would decide. My Uncle brought a McDonalds apple pie pocket that he picked up at the drive through on the way over 😂 Anyway, Dad nor I ever won this bakeoff – so to this day we think it was rigged, but was such a fond memory we did it every year after.
We went, what would be for our last time, in 2019. Like any last times – we would have no way of knowing.
We just got the mailer from our beloved orchard outlining the apples and dates available and it put a pit in my stomach. I feel like I’m walking a line of carrying on/BEING his legacy continuing to go every year… and it just not feeling right to go without him. There is such a void. I know he’s up there right now telling me “you’re missing the jonamacs!!!!” And I know I am.
I just can’t bring myself to go. This year. I know this is the year of firsts after losing someone and believe it or not this is one of the hardest first I have been dreading. It’s hard to explain as it seems like such a little thing.
I don’t know the right way to do grief and loss. I don’t want to stop making memories with my kids and family. I just am giving myself the grace this year to close my eyes and remember rather than go myself. It just feels like the lesser painful of the two ideas.
I WILL be making MY kind of apple delights. My decadent caramel apple bars, apple crisp on and on.. and will think of Dad as I do. And tell him “mine’s still better than yours… sucka….” 💔