The time I went Apple Picking in Detroit
A year ago, before I moved to the United States when someone said Fall/Autumn I always pictured people flying off, trying to hold onto umbrellas, their winter hoods and belongings as leaves swiveled around them. This picture stemmed from the illustrated textbook I used to teach children the seasons of the year in Spanish- vientoso, chaqueta, parguay- all the different words we used to describe a season. Otoño- a season that we don’t really have in India, I chuckle as I try to explain it to them using the textbook visuals. Puzzled but accepting of this new piece of information, they would nod in agreement.
One of my earliest memories of Chicago was walking to the train station and I remember stopping to look up at the trees full of red, orange, yellow and brown leaves. I also remember taking millions of pictures every time I stopped, my phone gallery is proof of my fascination.
I’ve been told its pumpkin season- synonymous and in sync with the season’s colors. ‘Ka-doo!’ I remember echoing in my head, the Hindi word for pumpkin, as my nose instinctively crinkled in disgust. A memory of how my mother tricked me into eating a pumpkin pudding immediately came to mind. I was so irked and mad at her because I nearly threw up at the sight of it.
“Your true American girl experience is incomplete without having tried a pumpkin spice latte”, a classmate and now my friend kindly explained to me one day and so unfolded this obsession the season had with this vegetable.
So as you can see I am on the path to collecting some American experiences and one of them I was told is to go apple picking- a quintessential American Fall experience. The same friend who gave me the initiation speech also explained to me how apple picking, an experience she and many other American children, cherish forever as childhood memories. In different seasons, depending on crops they have corn mazes, fruit and vegetable pickings too. Capitalist ideas at its finest- integrating family experiences and money making, I thought with a sigh.
On a Sunday morning, we all as in the family that I was staying with in Detroit, Michigan as well as myself, woke up fairly early that morning and got dressed. We were one of the four families that was making the trip. We drove to a McDonald's to grab breakfast and wait for all the other families to catch up. It reminded me of the countless road trips I would go on with my own family back home, back in India.
Let me tell you, we weren't the only people who had woken up on Sunday to pick apples. There was a long line of people waiting to get their bags. We strategized on how many bags we should get and how big these bags should be and how many people should share a bag while waiting in the line.
Finally armed with plastic bags, a ton of people, excited children and selfie-ready group members we set out into the apple orchards. It was like a Narnia moment combined with a botany field trip- walking through an enormous sun-streaked apple orchard and being informed which kind of apples you can expect to see. We could pick as many apples we could fit into the bag. If they didn’t all fit, we could also eat some or run our own quality test before putting them into the bag. It’s like picking mangoes back in India, except legally, and the owner is totally cool with it. Instead of chasing you out with sticks and "hoye, hoogu! (Oi! Get lost!)", they provide you with gigantic wagons in case you get tired of walking. (So much nicer)
So much option, plenty to keep you entertained- red apples, green apples, crispy apples, semi-sweet apples, sour apples, so many kinds of apples- it was like contracting apple mania. The most amusing part was watching kids climb trees and then not so amusing when I realized I was too adult to fit on a tree. As a consolation, I spent time showing off my height and ability to carry kids to reach the branches higher up on the tree.
After a few hours of careful apple picking, we got a ride out of the orchard and queued up for apple cider and cinnamon donuts. The word donut makes me turn into miss-sugar- free which is why I, very daintily with a flick of my hair and blowing a 'tsk' out from between my lips, skipped the donuts....
until the fragrance hit my nose. As I sipped on my apple cider from a Styrofoam cup I hesitantly decided I wanted to try some of these fried dough bits that were so warm and emanating a heavenly scent. Calling out to me, like open arms.
One bite, two bites and the cinnamon kicks in, the crunchy-just-right-amount-of- brown sugar is a perfect combination; not enough to kill you but plentiful to remind you of all happy things in the world. It was also such a great combination with the slightly acidic apple cider. So good, I had two... or maybe three or maybe more. Who was counting? (No, seriously who was?!)
As the sun began to set, we hopped into our cars, full of apples, pictures, and exhaustion. I came home the next day but the family I stayed with turned all those apples into apple crisps and split them between the families. I, on the other hand, bought a few apples home. And for the first time in my life I ate six apples in six days all by myself. Crispy, juicy in a non-drip-from-your-lips way, sweet and delicious six days of my life.
Now I have a photo montage of a ton of different fall things- Halloween, pumpkins, apple picking, and it’s a list in progress. And when I go back, I will fill the absence of this season with all of these memories that are going to be forever streaked with an orange hue.