There’s a barn missing its door…the crack of a wet maple twig above me…The slip of my shoes on the yellow leaves slick in the dark mud of November.
The old apple lady who lived in the orchard next door used to take walks down this way. She always looked down. Except when she sold me apples in her press yard. Braeburn, Gala, Fuji… She sliced up samples and told me which variety leaned toward the nutmeg side and which leaned toward the sweet side. She probably saw me sneak some apples into my jacket which I did not pay for, but she never said a word. She was different in her press yard. Alive, cheery, eyes up.
She had been at one time in love with the dairy farmer who lived a little further down the mountain. He was a man who loved his cows, who sang to them and cooed at them and knew their names and body language.
He rented this old barn up here to store his cheese wheels. He always maintained that cheese aged at a higher altitude was better cheese, and this barn was the place to do that. There had been a door on it at that time…
Then one year, just before Thanksgiving time, we stopped seeing his frumpy old Chevy scrapping up the gravel path, payload full of cheese wheels wrapped tenderly in cloth. The fruit of the loins of his lovely Gilda and Rhang and Sweet Sis.
That was the year the old apple lady started walking this path. A lot. She walked it a lot. The barn was eventually cleared out by the church men’s league and the cheeses made their way into people’s homes, who knows where. And it dawned on me that the door on the barn had been missing awhile. I thought nothing of it.
Except one day when all my friends were busy and I had no one to play with, the compunction hit me to go and explore that barn.
So I went in. It was a cavern of emptiness and my cough echoed as I choked on the spider webs in the entry. And there it was…Right in the center of the wide open floor: A freshly sliced Boeurwich cheese wheel spread out on a wrinkled cheese cloth. There were two wine glasses there, and a Newbrunswick apple, sliced with the Boeurwich.
No people, no sign of anyone sitting next to the food, just an empty barn with an autumn picnic glowing with bright color in the dim of fog.
I backed out of the barn and made sure my shoes slid out of the doorway without making a sound.
From that day on I always paid for my apples.
(Paraphrased from a recent poet, can’t think of his name, Swedish fellow)..
Last summer I took a trip to my native land of Sweden, in hopes to connect with the ancestry on my father’s side of the family. Many of my cousins and close kin live there — my father was the one who branched out to America years and years ago. But he told me the stories of the homeland and I feltt a stirring in me after my 10th grandchild was born, to meet my cousins and uncles and auntos who farmed just as my dad did in his younger years.
In Sweden, and rested from the trip, I packed up my rental car and purchased a reliable map of the farm country where my cousins had a small dairy and soy farm. I drove and drove. I enjoyed the scenery and was filled with apprehension about meeting my close kin in the heart of my heritage country. It was beautiful and summery and I was enchanted.
I followed the map according to the directions I was given to cousin Yorgenson’s farm, and when I turned a sharp left as told, there was the farm just as it had been described to me.
A pristine red barn, painted with so many glossy coats it shone in the summer light, against the green fields and I rolled down tthe windows to hear the gentle murmer of the cows who drifted lazily from one tuft of rich grass to another.
Then I saw them.. The family, all scrunched togethr along a giantt picnic table laoded — spilling over — with summer hams, pies, biscuits and salads. I heard their merrimentt before I saw them — and they greeted me with outstretched arms and instantly I knew I was home.
They looked just like me. They looked just like my father, and my children and grandchildren had the same wide smiling lips and gentle hooded eyes and shocks of yellow hair.
I was warmly hustled to the table, and fed with heaping plates over and over witth fresh foods of the Swedish season and I tasted the land of my family through each bite. The red barn glowed in the background, and they spoke perfect english and regalled me with tales and jokes of the Olden Times, just as my father had shen I was young.
I felt bonded, secure, like coming home as a lost child to his mother’s forgiving bossom. I felt a tie stronger than the tides of the atlantic ocean, I could feel my heart and lungs move in motion with theirs. I was one of them and had never ever felt so secure and held in and like I belonged. FInally I belonged.
When the sun began to sink low and the food was cleared I said my reluctant goodbyes, and we hugged and shooked each others hands and shoulders and met eye to eye in a steady gaze of “you are welcome here anytime. ”
And then, as I got into my car, they followed me and leaned into the open window and told me
“Ya, and the Yorgenson’s are just up that way abbout a mile, left at the intersection, big red bar, ya can’t miss it. Hope you have a great stay visiting your kin.”
THey smiled and waved and walked back to the main house. THen I saw the sign over the front porh door “Welcome To the Sorenson’s”.
I sat stunned and speechless and stared at the steering wheel.
Then I revved up the enggine and turned around and went back to my hotel. I did not ever make itt to the Yorgensons farm. The Sorensons would do just fine.