Friday, May 6, 2016


If in my days as a struggling single mother I had been as destitute as I remember, I wouldn't have been buying apples at Lawson's farm on Route 2 in Lincoln in what must have been the fall of 1984. In addition to apples and cider and vegetables, Lawson's had on offer a row of glass knickknacks on a shelf in front of a south-facing window. The only one I paid attention to was a cobalt-glass apple about 3 inches in diameter. Cobalt glass with a light behind it is, in Sherry's phrase, one of the better ends of things.  Starved for self-indulgence and frivolity, I longed for and lusted after that dark blue glass object, thinking rebelliously, "If I collected apples I'd have an excuse to buy that." I decided on the spot that as of that moment I did collect apples.  I paid Lawson's $15 and triumphantly carried it off.

I have since acquired a number of apples and apple-related objects, most of them given to me. Katharine and especially Sherry frequent gift shops, yard sales and dusty little second-hand stores. Laurie kept an eye out for apples, producing over the years some quite nifty ones and a couple that are actually useful.

My favorite gift apple was from Justin the year he left home and accordingly patronized a lot of yard sales. He appeared bearing the only Mother's Day gift he has ever presented me with, for which he declared that he had paid 50¢: knowing how I feel about holidays that exist to feed the gift industry, he thought I would approve of a 50¢ apple.

It's 7 inches in diameter (a bit wider at the top than at the bottom) and 7 inches high, made of 1/16" red plastic-coated wire wound horizontally 3/4 of an inch apart, and a green plastic stem and leaf. I hung it in the window of my Medford office and gazed at it fondly while typing. Later, someone gave me a wind chime featuring five melodious brass birds. I hung that in the window with the birds caged inside the apple.

In Otter River, I had a perfectly good bracket in front of the window opposite the chair in my office; but I couldn't quite picture how to re-hang the apple and birds and probably had an intimation that it would be harder than it looked. The apple and birds and the strings that suspended it sat for some time in an unsatisfactory heap on a bookshelf.

When I did gather up my courage for the attempt, my first thought was to lift up the whole thing as one piece and just hook it over the bracket. This approach turned out to be like an attempt in the nineteenth century to right one of the standing stones at Avebury: with all the resources of the nearby railroad at their disposal -- and Victorian machinery isn't to be dismissed lightly -- the engineers couldn't manage it and ultimately put the stone back up with levers and wooden supports, the same way their Neolithic predecessors did it.

I separated my birds from the apple; hung up the apple; and slipped the birds into it, as I had in Medford. It now hangs nicely in front of the window, as good as when not quite new.

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