We go every year. Maybe you do, too.
We pick a perfect fall morning, bright and clear. We drive through rolling country roads, farms and hills and trees ablaze with orange, yellow, red. We grab our bags and head for the rows of trees upon trees.
We pick, pluck, pause and pick another, piling the apples high. We eat them off the branch, munching as we crunch through the leaves. The kids kick the fallen fruit; the adults haul the harvest in heavy paper sacks. We head back to the farm for cool cider and warm donuts. Then we wind our way back home, plans of pies and sauce and crisp and muffins wafting through our weekend.
The annual apple orchard trip.
This year we found a new farm, smaller-scale, family-owned. I laughed with another mom as we circled the gnarly trees, branches heavy with shiny red fruits. “Isn’t it great to beat the crowds here?” she said. I agreed, nodding. A bulky black camera swung from her neck. “We’re yuppies, don’t get me wrong. We’re not really here for the apples. But we just have to come every year, you know?”
I noticed, for the first time this year. Even in the quieter crowds, every parent had a camera. We clicked as the kids picked. We followed as they wandered round the trees. We snapped as they spun around swings and slides.
Why? I wondered. Yes, the autumn light is bright and crisp in the morning, perfect for photos. And rosy-cheeked children next to nature’s greens and reds are a pretty combination. But maybe it’s more.
These annual trips become touchstones, Kairos moments in the chronos of parenting. We step outside with our kids, away from home and school and work, and realize – suddenly, swiftly, sharply – how much they’ve grown. We scramble to capture a moment that is already fleeting.
Because we need to know, amidst the endless, exhausting and exasperating days, how close the harvest creeps under our very eyes. How quickly the years race by.
I’m guilty of it, too. I snap all day as my babies play. Something deep inside me tugs; I can’t help but try to capture what it means to my mothering soul to see them a little taller, a little bigger each year. All at once I want to wrap my arms around them and keep them this small, sweet age for always, and nudge them on to the next stage, too. Sentiment and melancholy in the same breath, so quintessentially autumn.
I realized this year why parents photograph the picking, not the planting of seeds. Because that work – the slow, tedious, watchful work of tending and waiting – is the work we do every single day. We know sowing and growing, but what we long to see, what we hope will come, what the family rituals and the yearly crop celebrate, is that one day their harvest will be here, too. They’ll be ripe and ready, big and beautiful. We’ll be able to see the fruits of our labors. We hope.
Some day. Still so far.