Today I was up a tree.
I love apple trees. They are very significant to me, and an apple tree is first thing you see on my website – margaretmcallister.co.uk. I once lived in a place called Appletree Lane. (We didn’t have an apple tree, but it was close enough.) But finally, him and me have our own home with an apple tree in the garden. A very prolific apple tree this year, with heavy green clusters of fruit weighing down the branches.
This afternoon, I was in the tree, my daughter-in-law was up a ladder, and my son was patrolling about with a shepherd’s crook, all harvesting our lovely apples. One or two big shiny ones didn’t want to come down, some responded to a tug or a good whack with the crook, and one was so persistent that Jojo gave it a name (Delilah). There’s still a lifetime of Sunday puddings up there, but we’ve done enough for today. And if the tree didn’t want to co-operate any longer, why should it?
It’s a big, strong mature tree, so much so that it has a support holding it up on one side and will soon need one on the other. We’ve only lived here for three years. This house was built about eighty-five years ago, and I believe the tree arrived soon afterwards. It was here before I was a pip. Respect, tree.
I know very little about who lived in this house before us. It has seen joy and sorrow, I know that much. So this morning, in the late autumn light of a Sunday afternoon, I wondered about the people who have lived here, and how the house and garden have changed, and the apple tree being here through it all. Every spring, Someone has watched to see the blossom setting. Every autumn, Someone has climbed up or shaken branches. Before there were freezers, did they wrap the apples in newspaper and store them in the attic? Did they hang jelly bags from upturned stools? Did they do what we do, and give them away to anyone who ‘ll have them? The tree knows all their stories, but it’s not telling.
If you wanted to write a saga across a long period of time, you could do well with an apple tree. The families who have lived in that house, their experiences and decisions, their loves, their joys and successses, their tragedies, all around the common theme of the apple tree as part of their lives. But there would be no births, marriages, deaths or adventures in October. No, they’d all be too busy knocking apples down from the tree.