The kids are becoming such good little foragers.
They are still young enough that they like the idea of working for the family.
Col, 4, climbs any tree he can swing a leg up on, plunking juicy fruit orbs into his bag. Soon he forgets what he’s actually doing and spills half of them; nevertheless, proper neural pathways are being forged. Rose, 2, scurries around tree trunks, taking bites from fallen fruit, then like an entitled raccoon, tosses the rest in the grass.
Dan and I met in the fall, and early in our courtship we exchanged – unplanned – homemade peach bread (his) for a jar of plum preserves (mine). We were like two skiers swooshing down a black diamond on a first date, thinking "Man, she can ski." Except in our nerdier case, it was "He knows where to pick peaches and what to do with them."
Our well-trained offspring watch our neighbor’s apple tree possessively as it groans and creaks under pressure. They know when most people are sick of the fallen soldiers rotting on the ground, Dan and I are ready to move in and set up work camp. They know to sidestep the earwigs that burrow into the most promising fruit.
Perching in an apple tree is like a game of Twister. When the spinner points to the clump of polished ruby apples just beyond reach, it seems I’ll collapse if I stretch another inch. But when an image of barren January flashes before my eyes, I’m always more elastic than I thought.
Rose – being the kid who demands more food while her mouth still bulges with the last bite – begs in a puzzled and desperate frenzy: "More apples, no, more peaches. More pears?" (Except it sounds like "mow pay-uh’s") She rattles off every fruit she’s devoured this summer like some nervous contestant on Jeopardy trying to increase her winnings. And you feel sort of sorry for her, being the smallest, most disenfranchised, and regularly confused member of the family.
Being grubby little scavengers at heart, the kids are more likely to devour a sour-fleshed baby apple that they filched from an alleyway tree than some juice-buster in the fridge from Washington state. This propensity stems from the same gene that has them begging at the feet of any mom who whips out a plastic baggie at playgroup, despite what their own mama has packed.
After the kids are tucked into bed, Dan and I process fruit with the alacrity of Santa’s elves. We fill drying racks with sliced peaches, pit cherries while blood-red juice splatters our clothes, and keep our hands moving on wooden spoons in bubbling applesauce. There’s a certain massacre-like feeling when we’re done, like we’ll never get all the sticky juice cleaned up before the police arrive.
After processing a mountain of peaches one day away from becoming moldy compost, Dan falls into bed murmuring "I’m impeached."
But I’m still buzzing from peach sugar, and placing another warm jar of preserves in the pantry feels like money in the bank.
Rachel Turiel has lived
in Durango for 15 fruit
seasons. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org