"Mmmm," I said as peach juice ran down my chin. I loved the orchard; it was my favorite place in the world. We had a small peach tree that grew the best peaches, small but juicy and delicious. They would "refresh the heart and soul" as my mom said. We also had a small pear tree that didn't have such large pears. I kept asking my dad, "When will they get bigger?"
He'd always say, "It takes time. We need to be patient."
I liked to climb in the apple trees. My favorite one to climb was the apple tree right next to the house. It had really thick branches, just far enough apart to be easily reached as I climbed. One day, I wanted to help my dad prune the apple trees. "I can do it! I'm big. Can I try? Please?"
I kept after him until finally he said "Okay, Graham, you can do it. I'll cut the big dead branches with my big saw, and you can cut the little branches off with your little saw so they'll fit neatly in the brush pile."
Everything was going along fine. I had cut all the little branches off of four limbs when, "Aahhhh!" I cried.
Dad came running. "What's the matter?" he asked. I was crying too hard to respond, so I just held up my hand to show him the quarter inch slice my little saw had cut in the web of skin between my pointer finger and thumb. He took me to the kitchen, washed my hand and put a bandage over it. I told him that I was too little for a saw, and I was sorry. He told me that I wasn't little; I was big because I had tried something new.
There were juicy blueberries on bushes almost as long as our property. Sometimes when I was bored, I'd sneak out of the house, crawl under the net that protected the blueberries from crows and eat blueberries by the bushel. There was an owl statue in the blueberries to keep the crows away. The first time I saw it, I thought it was real! I chucked a rock at it. Thunk! I ran to my mom. "There's a hollow owl sitting in our blueberry patch, Mom!" It must have done a good job because I never saw any crows in our blueberry bushes.
We had a stream on the edge of our lawn. Mom and I would put wooden planks across it and pretend that we were pirates walking the plank. Sometimes we'd jump off and get all wet and muddy, or we would walk all the way across and hike through the woods. When we came back from our hiking trips, we'd be covered in briar.
In the winter we would take cookie sheets and go sledding on the hill. It was about 50 feet long, but somewhat steep; just the right size for a four-year-old. In spring we would bike to the top of the hill where we could see the football field. We watched the high school students practice for their games. I used to think it was cool to watch them throw the ball so far and kick so high. I didn't know any of the rules, but it was still cool.
I loved living in Pennsylvania. The town was small, the yards were big, and my grandparents and aunt lived there. I haven't been there for four years. The house by the stream was sold. I don't know if the orchards are still there. The new people may have torn them down to build more houses. I don't like to think of that. But I can always go back and visit the apple tree, gorge myself on blueberries and zoom down a snow-covered hill in my memories.
-- Graham Greenland, Weatogue, Connecticut. Illustration by Pamela Sastra, from Indonesia.