September 25, 2012

a view, a memory

One of my favorite memories of high school is of the annual barn dance and cider pressing at the farm of a family we knew. In reality I probably only went to it twice, maybe even once, but somehow it's become an integral moment from my childhood, something that defined what it was like to live where I lived, when I lived there. The long tables in the barn spread with a hodge podge of potluck dishes, everyone eyeing them up, trying to decide which dishes would be best. The women sitting around an old picnic table, quartering apples, then cutting them into smaller chunks, filling the buckets that would be taken by the boys to the big press, bolted to a cement pad in front of the barn. The dads would take turns with the crank, occasionally some of the bigger kids would get in there and try their hand as well. And by the time we were ready to eat, there were jugs and jugs of cider. More than you could possibly drink in one night, although we tried. We drank it cold during dinner and then hot later in the evening, sitting around a big bonfire while people danced in the barn, climbed on the climbing wall, hid in the loft. Babies slept in peoples laps, people sang, stars twinkled. It's a good memory. A perfect moment.

This week there was a note in the school bulletin about a harvest dinner. All welcome. Bring a dish to share and your own plates and utensils. It sounded like fun. Something to fill our Sunday evening.We could stop by for an hour and then come home. In the end, though, we stayed for hours.

East of our little village there is an old schoolhouse that's now a food coop and store. We've been there several times. It's on the way-ish to the lake and has one of the best beer selections in town. Plus it's just a fun place. Behind the schoolhouse is a community garden and the school garden that provides our school with most of it's vegetables (ours is not exactly your average elementary school in many ways, the amazing school lunches being just one of them). And behind the garden, the hills roll away to farmland and mountains beyond. A beautiful view.

People showed up with bags of apples for the press. Crab apples and windfalls and strange little warty green apples. The kids washed them and cranked the chopper and then took turns at the wheel of the press. And then we sat at long tables covered with a mish-mash of tablecloths and ate squash and apple dominated dishes with our fresh cider until it was way past time to take the kids home to bed.

It almost didn't seem real- the view, the setting, the cider, the milling people, the twinkle lights and candles. It looked like something that would be staged for a tourist brochure or a movie. But it was. And it was perfect. One of those nights that is sure to stick in our minds. I hope it does. I hope that twenty years from now our kids will look back and say, "Remember that night? That dinner? Remember running around in the garden? Watching the bees file into their hives? Pressing apples until our fingers were sticky? How good the hot cider was when the sun went down and it got cold? Remember that?" Actually, I hope that twenty years from now we are still going to that Harvest Dinner. But even if we aren't, we have this one. A good memory. A perfect moment.