10 October 2010

gunfighter ballad.

Today I took Henrik and my husband for their first applepicking experience, and Henrik was so excited he slept through it all. As we made our way through the seemingly endless rows of Honeycrisp trees, their roots surrounded by fallen tender apples, I was brought back to the moment I decided I wanted to come home--to Windom.  I'm going to be honest, I never wanted to make Windom my home.  Of course I was always going to think of it as the place where I grew up, important, but I really thought I was a big city girl. I was going to live in the heart of New York City.  Boy was I wrong.  Never say never...

It was during this time of the year eight years ago, I was in my second year of college at the Univeristy of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and I was absolutely loving it. I came home to Windom for a weekend.  I didn't come home for the weekends often because of the long distance and lack of interest to be in the place I had been running from since graduation, but my grandpa's days were numbered this year.  The doctors gave him 6 months to live and these 6 months were going fast and coming even faster. During this weekend home from college, my mom and I took my grandpa apple picking.  It was a gray and cold day, but it was a perfect baking day none the less.  My grandpa never showed me how much pain he was in, but it was getting harder and harder to hide.  As we drove among the fields just west of town, going up and down shallow valleys of autumn rusts and oranges, it looked as though a quilt had been laid across miles of land, he took it all in.  He sat in the front seat, leaning forward, like a little boy experiencing the humbling enormity of earth, its gifts of beauty, for the first time.  This was his favorite time of year.  He was a hunter. In 5th grade he helped me with my elementary bird report.  He borrowed me his birdwatching book and knowledge so I could learn and write about all the facts about my favorite bird, the Goldfinch.  But of course I ended out learning about all the birds found in his backyard (which was only 3 blocks away from mine) and all the birds hunted in Southwestern Minnesota, but he was always good for a lesson.  While I watched him take in the view, it was silent in the car until Marty Robbin's "El Paso" came on.  An old favorite, the volume was turned up, and I watched him take in the melody too.

We made it to our destination and started picking apples.  The bitterness of the cool wind and lack of warmth from the sun took a toll on his aching bones, but he managed to put some apples in our pail.  We didn't say much.  I think I was in fear of showing any sort of emotion of truth--the truth of time and pain.  It was a blessing just to share this day with him and my mom.  That evening the house smelled of warm apple pie. Nothing is more comforting than the fragrance of an apple pie on a cold autumn evening and, even better, a piece of warm apple pie on your fork.

Needless to say, it was an even longer drive back to Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.  I played Marty Robbin's Gunfighter Ballads over and over again thinking about my grandpa and how much he means to me and how much he taught me.  As I passed each white dash in the middle of Interstate 90, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to turn around and be with my family, sharing all the beauty and hurt of life together. Family meant home to me. It was then, somewhere in Southern Minnesota on I90, among the dust of freshly harvested fields on a cold autumn day that I wanted to come home to Windom and stay forever. 

And I was just reminded of that again today with my husband and my son among those long rows of beautiful Honeycrisp trees and smell of fresh applecrisp on an October evening.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story, Mari! Thanks for sharing it with us.