It was usually a chilly misty Saturday morning, sometime before Halloween, when we’d drive down our street, head to West Street, turn left at the Lipton Mart Convenience Store onto Merriam Street, then right onto Housatonic Street, then left onto Barker Road driving past Friendly’s Ice Cream, then onto Swamp Road, past the Pittsfield Municipal Airport crossing our town line into Richmond, then finally…finally we’d reach our destination. One of my favorite places in…the..whole..wide..world! (Maybe Universe.) Suddenly, letting out a sigh of relief, I could breathe again. It seemed that that short fifteen-minute trek always took for…ev…er.
As soon as the car was in park, my brothers, sister and I would quickly pile out of our blue Ford station wagon leaving our parents in the dust. Looking around, one couldn’t help but notice the magnificent views of the purple blue Berkshire hills rolling out to meet the horizon. Well-worn dirt paths leading through rows and rows of trees that stood stable and strong were within arm’s reach. If we were lucky, the distant maples would be showing off their leaves, dazzling us with arrays of red, yellow and orange.
As captivating as the scenery was, it was the wafting scent of sweet florals with just a tiny hint of vanilla and baked homemade goods that would propel us through the glass paned wooden door. Spilling into entrance we’d be eye to eye with the well-stocked tables that held jars, jugs, and plastic containers on top of green gingham tablecloths. Soon the main attractions would come into focus. White basket-like paper bags, filled with neat stacks of luscious Paula Reds, Jona-Macs, McIntoshes, Cortlands, Galas, Macouns, Empires, Mutsus, Libertys, Ida Reds, Jona-Golds, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious surrounded us. They were just patiently waiting to be picked up by their handles, to accompany smiling faces home.
From my journal: September 23, 1991 Hillsboro, Oregon
“Our first autumn in Oregon…reminds me of home. Cool outside this morning… the air was as crisp as a McIntosh apple!”
I have such warm memories of fall and autumn is still my favorite season. Keats referred to it as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Such a lovely way to describe the time of year that begins on September 23 or 24 with the autumnal equinox. Incidentally, the word autumn comes from the Latin word “autummus” with its root meaning the passing of a year. Fall, the less formal name was likely a deviation of the Old English words “fealian” or “finell” meaning “to fall from a height”. Over time the phrase became “fall of the leaf” which is now shortened to fall.
When I recall taking that first crunchy bite of a shiny Red Delicious, tasting its mildly tart yet sweet juiciness, it still makes me happy. And when I think of devouring a moist cakey donut flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a bit of cider, I am nine years old again, sitting side by side with my family on a picnic table, my cheeks rosy from the morning’s coolness, warmly wrapped in a thick fluffy sweatshirt, at Bartlett’s Orchard, feeling like all is right with the world.