© by Bella Lori Gagnon, March 2012, Winnipeg, MB
Every spring, the crab apple tree in the back yard of the house I grew up in, would turn into a gloriously queenly profusion of sweetly scented pale pink blossoms. That softly sweet smell, seductively hinted at something more to come, if one could only be patient.
The magical display would bless us for a few precious days and then it would happen. A hearty spring wind would blow in during the early hours of the morning and it snowed soft pale pink petals. I would awake, and look out of the dining room window through sleepy eyes, to discover the green lawn had disappeared under an inch of the fresh pink spring snow.
It was to a young child, quite extraordinary.
Spring would run into summer, the pink snow long blown or washed away by spring breezes and rain showers. By then, that crab apple tree would be loaded with small green fruit. As the long hot days of summer meandered on, I never paid it much attention. I was too busy; riding my bike, playing in my sandbox, trying to stay cool by spending hours running through the lawn sprinkler, skipping, and playing hopscotch and hide and seek with the neighbourhood gang.
However, as autumn approached, it did not escape my notice that the apples had ripened into a deep, almost burgundy red. I always dared to eat a few, despite my Mom’s warning that they were sour and would give me a belly ache. And so they were, sour that is. I never ate enough to get the warned of belly ache and I thought them much better tasting than the berries off the honeysuckle bushes. I was not supposed to eat those either, but I always snuck a few despite the, “they are poisonous” warning from a worried faced Mom.
When the crab apples started to fall off the tree, I along with my Dad, where given a plastic pail by Mom and we started to pick the crab apples. I did all the lower branches where I could reach, and Dad and Mom did the higher branches. Dad always insisted that we get every single apple so they would not fall into the lawn, rot, and make a mess.
I secretly kept a few aside and when no one was looking, I laid them along the sidewalk at the side of the house for the crows. They did not seem to think them so sour as to get a bellyache. They would gleefully eat as many as I would put there for them.
After the picking, the kitchen would become a beehive of activity, and I was always warned to stay out from underfoot. The kitchen counter was lined with recently boiled jelly jars and a big pot simmered on the stove. Mom, wearing the obligatory bib and skirt apron, would be busy pulling stems off the crab apples. Then she would boil them up along with sugar and other, unknown to me, ingredients. I would often watch from the back landing. Sitting on the landing steps, I watched as she worked, seeing that wonderful smelling bright red goo that the apples had turned into, being ladled into all those small glass jars.
The wonder of the spring blossoms and pink snow had been painstakingly changed into red jelly, a treasure to be enjoyed all winter on morning toast or before bedtime on homemade biscuits.