Homecomings

Fall 1968, Central Michigan University
Who couldn’t love newborn autumn in Michigan? With summer vacations archived in photos and memories, we flock again to high school and college football fields to cheer our team to victory.
Alumni, students, and parents clap to the beat of marching bands. In small to large towns, we celebrate homecoming in a place where we prepared our minds and bodies to greet our future with knowledge, skill, and confidence.
           And what reasonable person would drive by a cider mill pressing the sweet goodness out of Honey Crisps and Northern Spies without stopping in for a sip and doughnut?
Doesn’t every Michigander have a favorite doughnut?
For instance, check out Yate’s Cider Mill at 23 Mile and Dequindre Roads before 11 a.m. on a Friday and you’ll find folk lined up, waiting for the doughnut door to open.
“What’s the big attraction?” I asked the gray-headed guy behind me.
“Apple fritters! I hope they don’t run out before I get mine.”
“Me too,” said the man before me.  
Both men boasted the girth of life-long apple fritter fans.
“As a kid, I rode my bike here from Hazel Park every fall,” said the man behind. “I’ve come every year since.”
“Yeah, I’ve waited in this line for fifty-five years,” replied the other guy. “Our parents brought us here and waited in line.”
“That apple fritter kept me out of trouble and Mom’s hair all day long,” the guy behind added. “I made it home for dinner before the street lights came on. If I didn’t, she’d take my bike away.”
“Did she ever claim it?” I asked.
“Nope.”
I dared ask what makes the apple fritter worth the wait.
“Lots of apples, spices, and glaze. And it’s huge,” said the man behind. “The best flavor and bargain around.”
“It’s a family tradition,” said the other man.
Another homecoming—powerful and delicious.
We walked inside the building where the men pointed to a counter loaded with their knotty, glazed favorite.
“There they are, and there’s plenty left.”
The fritter lovers relaxed.  
“So, what brought you here?” asked the guy who grew up in Hazel Park.
“I guess to reminisce,” I said. “My senior year in high school my boyfriend and I double dated with another couple here. I’ve not been back since.”
“It’s a lot different now,” the man in front said.
I nodded. “I’d never visited a cider mill back then. The day was beautiful, just like today. We walked the trails. But I can’t remember the taste of cider and doughnuts.”
“Well, now you can make up for it. I highly recommend the apple fritter,” said the man who rode his bike to Yate’s.
Dear Reader, I avoided the bodily damage of the fritter, sat with a nutty doughnut, and recalled the days I escaped the house on my bike and soared in toe jumps before bleachers filled with fans.  
Then I boasted the limp of an old cheerleader and took a stroll along the river. Who couldn’t linger in such a lovely homecoming?

Simple Abundance

My favorite pail holds last year's grape harvest
Years ago I spied my favorite pail at the Armada Flea Market. Light gray enamel with a graceful mouth wider than the bottom, it called my name.
             More a large bowl than a bucket, the utilitarian design includes two handles. The lathed, wood grip in the middle of the long metal handle fits my hand perfectly. The pail swings and sings when carried.
The other handle is welded to the rim, I presume for hanging on a wall to keep the inside dry and rust free. The person who created my garden friend knew a thing or two about conservation and thrift.
Speaking of, I can’t remember the cost. But I’ll tell you right now, no amount of money can tempt me to sell her.
Yes, my pail’s an indispensible she.
I’ve not yet named her. She’ll tell me when she’s in the mood.
My marvelous find has served many purposes in her years of service here. She held all manner of lavender products in our farm’s gift shop. I could’ve sold her a hundred times.
After I liquidated the store, that trusty handle lay untouched until I went searching for the perfect sized container to carry our grape harvest into the kitchen. Our four champagne grape vines produce enough to fill her to the brim and yield twenty pints of grape lavender jelly.
Incidentally, my farm companion is also a heart and back saver since I carry our load below my waist.

Be it beets, onions, garlic, or tomatoes, my Armada Flea Market treasure holds up without a sign of resigning. She now waits in the garage beside the remnants of our peach harvest for our pears to ripen—a meager crop, but enough to risk for a pear cake recipe that caught my eye.
There’s still cabbage, squash, and some beans to carry up to the house in my bargain castaway. Through the years, I’ve wondered where this humble and purposeful item came from, and what will happen to her when I pass to Glory. I visualize her crammed in some storage unit, her handle resting on the rim.
Or worse, left at the end or our driveway in the rain.
In the scope of eternity, this year’s harvest and the implements we use to ease our labor are insignificant matters. However, today, and until our last breath, we must grow and eat food. And it’s most enjoyable and beneficial if we perceive and appreciate our provisions and health in doing so, particularly in the presence of family and friends.
Perhaps this is one reason why Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, sold seven million copies since published in 1995. Could she imagine cell phones would become America’s most abundant and omnipresent tool?
  Dear Reader, considering this distraction from the simple abundance of the natural world and family life, this makes my peach harvest and favorite pail all the more meaningful and dear to me.
            It’s these simple things that build my abundant life.