Christine and I met at Northwestern, and we’ve remained friends in a remarkably intermittent way, as our paths crossed and recrossed.  The first Thanksgiving that I didn’t spend with family in Michigan, I spent with Christine in Queens.  We made everything: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie, you name it.  We didn’t see each other much while I was busy with grad school, but resumed somehow seamlessly soon after.  Christine is a friend with whom I do unabashedly iconic activities, like ice skating in Bryant Park.  When I got back to the city last fall after doing a play in Greensboro, NC we decided that we would go apple picking.

We thought that apple picking sounded wholesome

Sometimes you need to leave the world behind

Her parents had recently relocated from Duluth, MN to Long Island, following her father’s work.  And Long Island, its seems, has a number of apple orchards.  We decided to meet at Penn Station and take the LIRR out to Ronkonkama, where her father would meet us with his car and drive us out to the orchard.  The plan was to make a pie, perhaps see a movie, and then spend the night at her parents’ home: a wonderfully lazy, suburban weekend.

When we got to the orchard it was late afternoon, apple trees as far as you could see.  We wandered about, occasionally sharing an apple, tasting it to see if it was a variety we wanted to pick (as there were no signs or labels differentiating the trees).  Christine and her father had a beautiful old fashioned basket, while I filled a backpack.  I distinctly remember that her dad brought Sam’s Club diet colas for us to drink as well.  We lost track of time, wandering further and further back into the orchard, not noticing that there were fewer and fewer people around.

Oh we were not children / Oh but we were happy (photo © 2010 Michael Heck)

After we had picked what we wanted, we headed back for the gate.  As we got closer we heard a voice yell to us that the orchard had closed, and we noticed that our car was the only vehicle left by the side of the road.  It was clear that this guy had waited for us, and was more than a little annoyed.  He was maybe 20 years old at most, and had already put away the scales and cash register, locking everything up in a small trailer that constituted the only building at the orchard.  He told us rather authoritatively that we couldn’t take the apples, even though we offered him more money than they were worth.  He said we could leave them by the trailer and pick them up in the morning, and somehow in our surprise we agreed.

Early the next morning when Christine’s dad went back to the orchard, our apples were gone.  Somewhat incredulous, we ended up going to a farmer’s market to buy apples before heading back to New York.  That said, we still had a lovely weekend, regardless (or perhaps because) of our misadventures.  The link below is a simple demo recording of my portrait of Christine, which retells this story and muses a bit about finding happiness even in the midst of upended expectations.

After Apple Picking by Matthew Carlson