“A is for apple.”
Today, little Apple lovers might expect a Macintosh laptop on an alphabet book’s first page. In 1959, however, technology never entered my mind. Instead, I eyed the luscious red fruit on my teacher’s desk. I focused on bites, not bytes.
I savored the school lunch’s apple crisp — until Joey Bump told me the topping consisted of fried ants.
Smart guy. He doubled his apple crisp intake.
Ants notwithstanding, I come from a long line of apple lovers. Every autumn Dad bought bushels of fragrant fruit at a nearby orchard. He peeled an apple with a surgeon’s precision, dangling the single long red curl, then sliced it into white circles whose dark seeds God had arranged in a flower pattern. A boy during the Depression, Dad scoured the woods for fruit — for anything — to nourish his scrawny frame. Forever, he would regard apples as a cause for celebration.
Whenever we visited my Louisiana grandparents, Dad bought Grandma bags of apples, fruit too expensive to frequent their black-eyed peas/turnip greens/corn bread diet. My four siblings and I waited for Grandma to share.
The apples vanished within seconds, never to reappear — while we were there, anyway.
Dad often surprised Grandma, driving all night from Indiana to visit. Once, he brought four-year-old Kenny, whom Grandma hadn’t seen for a year. Kenny and Dad dozed in his truck until they smelled bacon’s tantalizing fragrance. Dad’s resolve wavered. Did he dare rile his mother and risk losing a free breakfast?
Dad debated only a moment. Handing Kenny a bag of apples, he pulled my brother’s cap over his eyes and sent him to Grandma’s door. Hunkering down in the truck, Dad watched apple drama unfold.
At Kenny’s knock, Grandma appeared. “Child, what are you doing here at this hour?” She showed no sign of recognizing Kenny. “Where’s your mama? Your daddy?” She cast a wrathful eye at the truck.
When Kenny offered her the apples for a quarter, Grandma suffered pangs of conscience. How could she take advantage of this baby-child?
But the bargain apples proved too much.
Grandma retrieved a quarter from her old money sock.
As she handed it to Kenny, he tilted his head back. “Hi, Grandma!”
Dad strode to the porch, wearing a huge grin.
Grandma laughed and cried. When her voice returned, she said her 35-year-old son needed a good licking. How could such a bad apple turn out to be the only preacher in the family?
Grandma hugged Kenny, then welcomed him and his prodigal daddy, stuffing them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.
But no apples. The bag already had found a new home — under her featherbed.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite apple dessert?