we are sitting at the table, the two of us, she with a single apple, quartered, and the tarnished old peeler, black around the edges; i with the remainder of the bag and a black-handled paring knife. to the left of us her brother sits waiting to snatch up each discarded strip of skin and munch it down like a big-eyed rabbit become human for a time, all brown skin and curly mohawk and dirty fingernails.
i think i should remind him to wash his hands, but he has eaten apples off the ground and breathes in the fresh clean earth that hides under the moss in the woods behind the house, and i think he is okay, for now.
munch munch munch.
her hair falls over her right eye, like mine does, and i notice that she flips it away the same as i do.
she catches me watching her and asks if i peeled apples with my mommy when i was a little girl. i think so, i say. for applesauce, like we are? i think about it for a second, and then, apple pie, i say. we made apple pie once. and my thoughts turn to a friend several states away, starting over, who makes me cry with her story of peeling apples with her mother. i hope she’s having a day like i am, her boys clambering over her, smothering her with kisses. i hope my little girl remembers our apple peeling without the haze of hurt my friend and i both feel.
i almost want to stop, then. it feels jinxed, somehow.
the back door is open and the breeze carries on it the promise of cider days and pumpkin carving and i lift my face to the warmth, think the curtains are dancing and not just being blown. they are white, my curtains, with yellow flowers and butterflies-not what you might expect to see in a house that i own. they are sunny and old-fashioned and reminded me of my grandma fox’s house, for some reason, and so i bought them even though the ones i had were fine. i’m glad for them now. i want to be grandma fox someday. i wonder if i will be soft like she was, if my lap will feel like home to some little girl, if we will watch the chickadees in the snow, pecking out their winter snacks and hopping along like merry little puppets, black heads bobbing.
i miss her.
little boy, rabbit munching on his apple peels, talks around the food in his mouth, tells me he misses his friends-they are going to have a nerf war in the woods, him and his brothers and mikey and bobby, and when can they sleep in the tent again? can they camp in the snow? and before i answer he corrects himself, no, it would be too cold, i like my little room in the winter… mikey and bobby can sleep there too.
there is family here. in the memory of a warm, soft place, polyester blouses and pennsylvania winter; sisters miles and hours and countries away, close at heart; laughter from the next room, siblings sharing a silly joke, safe in the knowledge that there will be more to tell tomorrow.
i toss the last apple into the pot, toss in a cinnamon stick and set the stove to simmer. little hands are washed and faces appear by my side, peeking up over the silver edge, faces clouded in steam; they are eager, anxious for it to be done, amused that there is tree bark in among the piles of softening fruit. the wind blows strong for half a second, and i am happy here.