How strange that crabapples still grow when Chris is gone.
Today I’m going to pick the fruit off the tree in our backyard. Tomorrow, I’ll likely go to Gus’ and pick the fruit off the single tree Chris planted in their yard that same year. You see, Chris and I were migrant workers up to then. We’d hop in the car with plastic bags and drive the circuit according to the season. In late summer days we’d roll the windows down and blast the radio. Chris’ beat-up Rabbit looking every bit the part of king of dusty roads and laughing good times. The yellow crabapples in Terryville behind the school, the now-wild once-cultivated wine grapes behind the car dealership in Torrington, the quince bush on Hall Street where the old man said we were helping him because he wouldn’t have to rake "those bastards" up, the two cute crabapple trees at the mall driveway opening that Chris and I picked clean every year in under twenty minutes, the grapes on the locked fence of the fish hatchery where Chris calmly answered the cop’s question as to what we were doing with "Picking grapes." The local cop, by the way, the same one who asked me what I was doing with a shovel on a small bare triangle up the road when I was planting marigolds.
We used to ask permission where we could, but sometimes it was just more fun to do it, feel like we were stealing what we knew would only rot and go to waste. Once we–for the crabapples at the mall–went into the MacDonald’s and asked if we could pick the trees outside. Each blank-stared kid in turn pointed us to another until we got the fresh-faced manager who suggested quite gruffly that we’d have to call the corporate headquarters for approval. We suggested that he do so right away and had the trees stripped bare before he even thought about it.
But Chris and I decided that things had gotten out of hand, that we’d plant what we wanted, grapes and crabapple and quince and peach trees–Chris put in strawberries too, I had blueberry bushes–and become self-sufficient on our own lands instead of making the runs, moving with the crops as they came ripe and due.
Maybe, if there is nothing beyond all this, we did indeed leave something good upon the earth. Applesauce, jelly, preserves, wine. Our fruits of love and labor. Our gifts of friendship to each other and all who follow in the places we have been.