Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tell Me A Story She Whispered; A Story Retold

There were certain quiet, intimate times, usually at an hour when only insomniacs and lovers are awake, while half asleep, I would be asked to share bits of myself that no one else knew. Feeling safe with no need to keep my guard up, I would have shared the secrets of the universe had I known them. Fortunately, I was wise enough to recognize those moments and remember them. I wish I had shared this story during one of those times.

This is one of my earliest memories, I must have been 3 or 4. It was a warm, humid, cloudy morning in September. Thinking about it now, a tropical storm must have been making its way up the New England coast. My father put me in the front seat of his truck and off we went. The cab of his pick-up truck smelled vaguely of engine grease and motor oil with hints of coffee and White Owl cigars. Rattling behind the vinyl bench seat were the tools in his tool box. My father is the sort of man who takes tools wherever he goes and he knows how to use them.

As we headed up Rhode Island Route 3 (these were the days before the Rhode Island stretch of I 95 was completed) it started to pour. I remember the rain coming down in sheets, the windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the torrential downpour. I remember not quite understanding why we were out and not knowing where we were going. We turned off the main road and headed up a gravel road. As we made our way down the road, I remember the sound of tree branches gently brushing against the side of the truck. As the end of the road stood a barn and a farm house. We were at an apple orchard.

Unlike today where orchards are agricultural Disneylands to which families take their annual rural excursions, this place was really a farm whose primary crop were apples. My father took these things very seriously. For my father, as was the case for generations in our family, September was a time to put away food for the winter. The apples we got each fall became preserves and apple sauce that were to last for the coming year. With more than 300 years of farming history in my family, my father was following an instinctual drive to prepare for winter. He took this seriously and I was expected to as well.

I remember standing under an apple tree, my father scrambling to fill up our bushel baskets, the rain coming down in torrents. I did my best to help him as he explained to me what constituted an apple worth picking and one that was better left behind.

My next memory of that day was sitting in his pick-up, wet, drinking hot chocolate that we had brought with us. I remember my dad sitting next to me and I remember being happy. I am glad for that day, when I was so young, where I felt protected, loved, and happy to be my father's son. I am also sad that we had so few days like that one.

This story should have been told at a late hour, in soft whispers, while feeling safe and warm and unguarded.


  1. funny after reading this, i thought about the perspective my kids have on all these days during my current unemployed life status. the time i have with them, i'm creating moments like this, the one you've written about. i only hope that i'm giving them these kinds of memories. and you've reminded me of the importance of continual perspective of my kids. i forget, i think, sometimes to look at how they're seeing the world that my decisions affect for them. you've reminded me today. thanks.

    and as for late night stories... this one would be good any time! though late night pillow talk is also nice...