Monday, January 12, 2009


There's a half-acre lot in our neighborhood where a house now stands. Fifteen years ago it was an apple orchard. My neighbors said every autumn, for a small price, they could pick all the apples they wanted--Granny Smiths, Rome, Goldens--the orchard offered plenty of variety. When we bought our home, I discovered remnants of those days. The inside of our kitchen cupboards bore apple recipes torn from Southern Living.

I looked forward to the time I could participate in the event, but a few months after we moved here, a FOR SALE sign went up on the lot. It sold long before apple-picking time. The new owners cleared away the trees to make room for their new home.

Even though I never got to pick any apples, I like to imagine those autumn days. Neighbors brought together, if only for an hour, to pluck apples from branches while they talked about what they planned to do with their bushel--bake a pie or an upside-down cake, or stir up a batch of apple butter. For a brief time maybe folks, who shared the same street, exchanged pleasantries, turning strangers into neighbors.
I wonder if any of their casual conversations led to friendships or perhaps just caused a loaf of applesauce bread to appear in a mailbox.

I wish I knew my neighbors better. I'd love to meet the woman in the turquoise house that picks up litter on her daily walks, the couple who sits in rockers in their driveway or the family who strung Christmas lights outside in October so they could celebrate the holiday with their son before he left for Iraq. We wave to each other as I drive by. We are, after all, neighbors. But I keep driving until I reach my home. Then I push the button of my garage door remote, park the car, and disappear inside. Electric garage door openers have kept us from knowing the people that live near us just as a modest apple orchard once threw open the gate of communication.

Who could have known the possibilities that could sprout from a mere half-acre?

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