This Saturday past, my Lovely Cath and I went to Montrose Orchard. Montrose is a tiny rural community, about twenty minutes north of our home. It is a classic orchard – pony rides for the kids, petting zoo, yellow jackets buzzing around the cider mill presses, hot doughnuts – still shimmering with oil and cinnamon sugar, and pumpkins. Big ones and little ones, pie pumpkins and soon-to-be jack o’lanterns.
I love orchards. Visit an orchard and everything is instantly right with the world. The worn linoleum in the store, the dirt scuffles underfoot in the apple cellar, the slam of the screen door, the acrid smell of pressed apple waste yet to be turned into the compost pit. Orchards are the best place to be on a sunny, cool weekend afternoon.
We bought cider; icy cold and with the tang that tells you the only chemicals that will ever touch this cider are the digestive enzymes in your mouth. We bought blueberries. They were the last picking of the season, and we got them just in time. Ten pounds of berries, quick frozen and bagged up – they will liven up our morning yogurts and morning oatmeals until the snow begins to melt in mid-March. We bought a few apples, enough to feed the sweet tooth for a few days, and ensure we’d head back to the orchard in one week’s time.
We bought honey straws. The orchards of mid-Michigan have a great relationship with the bees of Michigan. The bees are given hives in which to live, and apple flowers upon which to sip nectar and feed their young. In return, the orchard owners ask for a little bit of pollination. And some honey.
Sweet apple blossom honey, drawn up into a straw. If you’re not drooling, better check your pulse.
Our 21 YO son Aaron was at work. He’s a do-everything guy at Bed, Bath & Beyond. “Do everything?” Yes, everything that needs to get done, he does. Put away stock, answer customer questions, ring up sales, answer customer complaints, direct co-workers a wee bit, all in a day’s work.
Cath and I decided to swing by the store and drop off a straw, on the off-chance that on a September afternoon the store might not be so busy that he’d have a moment to enjoy it. Aaron loves honey straws.
I chased Aaron down near the cookware. The store was busy. I held up the straw as I walked toward him. As he recognized what I held in my hand, he smiled. Broadly.
“You went to the orchard without me?” he asked. The years peeled back and he looked 13 again.
“Yep. Sorry ’bout that …”
His earpiece buzzed.
“Just a sec, Dad.” And into his headset, “Listen, just go ahead and…”
A stream of BB&B associate code came out of his mouth. He sounded like a quarterback calling a play at the line of scrimmage.
“Sorry, Dad. So, what’d you get at the orchard? Hey, just a sec.”
He turned around. An associate was standing behind him, holding a box in his hand with a querying look on his face. Aaron frowned, said something quietly, pointed to another end of the store, and turned back to me.
His brow relaxed. “Hey, what are you making for dinner? I should be home by five.”
His walkie-talkie buzzed. His brow furrows returned.
I patted him on the shoulder. I said, “You’re busy. Cath’s waiting in the car.”
He nodded, and reached for his walkie-talkie. I waved and walked towards the door.
I watched my adult age son flip back and forth between responsible, dedicated adult professional and little kid teenager three times in the span of ninety seconds.
I turned back to watch him as I went out through the ‘in’ door. He walked away, honey straw in the breast pocket of his shirt.