One rainy, shivery day last October, my husband, sons and I went to to hunt for the perfect carve-worthy pumpkins with just the right amount of character and personality to become our official Halloween jack-o'-lanterns. While the guys waded through a clumpy sea of orange, I searched for a few fluffy bundles of mums and a colorful fall wreath to decorate my front entrance.
Although we headed out in different directions to complete our missions, we all bumped into each other a few short minutes later — inside the cozy barn where they had hot apple cider, cookies and pumpkin bread. Jeez, we’re so predictable.
We stood there happily munching and sipping away when my husband noticed in the corner, lost among the twisted gourds, corn husks and dried fruit, a sad little apple tree that the staff seemed to have forgotten. It looked like a literal stick in the mud, with a few straggling leaves hanging on for dear life. I would never have known it was an apple tree if it didn’t say so on the white plastic tag. But then again, I couldn't identify any apple tree unless it was fully laden with completely ripe apples — such is my agricultural acumen.
As it happened, we were in the market for a tree to plant in honor of my grandparents who had recently passed away. When my son christened it the Charlie Brown Apple Tree, after that iconic little spruce in A Charlie Brown Christmas, the decision was made. We had our (deeply discounted) tree. Of course, my expectations were nil. Very rarely do I put something in the ground and watch it grow back up again, and I doubted this little guy could survive even the best of my efforts.
Once home, we realized the only place it could go was our front yard, front and center for all the world to see. Not good. On that cold, wet October afternoon — a prelude to one of the coldest Boston winters I have experienced — I was pretty sure planting season had already passed and this poor sap didn’t stand a chance. I didn’t want the neighbors to witness the inevitable demise of our apple tree.
But the boys had so much enthusiasm for the project, so I let them dig a big hole in the soggy ground and we plopped Charlie Brown in it and watched it sink way too deep. We shoveled the mud back in along with some potting soil I had left over from when I unsuccessfully tried to plant some impatiens the previous spring.
Good luck, Chuck.
I took off my sodden gloves and watched my sons; two unbelievably filthy, muddy messes, laughing and battling with the shovels, a trip to the ER waiting to happen. They seemed so gangly and unbalanced with long limbs sprouting from trunks that were getting taller and thicker by the minute. Oh, how I worry I won’t grow these boys the way they need to be grown. If I can’t grow something in dirt, how can I grow these kids? The responsibility seems overwhelming at times.
Our little apple tree was buried in four feet of hard crusted snow for most of the winter, while my sons busily plowed their way through fifth grade. In the spring, my children emerged a few inches taller and the tree sprouted longer limbs and tender green leaves — that quickly turned yellow with dark spots, and curled brown and crumbly on the edges. Darn. But we were busy with baseball and MCAS and field trips and projects and, well, growing.
It seemed months passed before I noticed Charlie Brown again. It was when a neighbor came up to me saying she’d never seen a tree so small bear so much fruit. What, huh? I looked and sure enough little Charlie had apples all over everywhere. Round apples. Red apples. REAL apples. Apples that were GROWING. It was amazing to see so many apples on such a little tree. Cue Snoopy and the angelic Charlie Brown choir. This tree was a Christmas miracle.
How did it grow so big, so quickly, against all the odds? I don't know. I look at my children every day and wonder the same thing.
On a personal note: This holiday weekend marks my 14th wedding anniversary to a wonderful and . I lucked out. My husband is everything I dreamed of as a child and as an adult. Together we brought home two babies at one time and together we find joy and strength and an incredible amount of laughter in each and every day. Happy Anniversary, Scott. Thank you for you.