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The Family Apple

There are times when I don’t realize how much I miss something or someone until it reappears in my life. I hear from a long-lost high school friend and realize that an empty corner of my heart has been filled in a way only she could. It’s that way with more mundane objects too. Recently my husband and I revived a long-standing tradition: that of the family apple.

Our dinner table has always been the axis around which our familial lives spun. A psychiatrist could have a field day applying adjectives to the range of emotions absorbed by the placemats: brooding, joyful, angry, silly, broken-hearted, confused, apathetic. When our daughters were young, my husband implemented the family apple as the closure to our nightly dinners. (Given that there were 5 of us, technically there were probably 2 apples per night but please indulge my poetic license).

Each night the girls and I would wait patiently while Gabe meticulously peeled the apple, using razor sharp precision to attempt to leave the entire peel intact. Then he would dole out the slices, going around the table to each outstretched hand. Possibly my depiction of this nightly event is sounding a bit like Little House on the Prairie on Christmas morning. However, the pleasure of partaking in the family apple was not in its nutritional or sensory value, but rather in the satisfaction of a repeated ritual. A sweet finale to our aggregate long days.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that an apple does have the following benefits:

  • Antioxidant
  • Good for heart health and weight loss
  • Linked to higher bone density
  • Found to help preserve the neurotransmitter necessary to ward off dementia
  • Combatant to Type 2 diabetes
  • Contributor to gut health

For all these reasons, Gabe and I, as empty nesters, decided to bring back the family apple, and I find myself enjoying watching that peel fall away; I love waiting patiently and appreciate the fact that while there are no longer little girls around a table, instead a 45-pound Blue Heeler and (sometimes) 5-pound Shorky eagerly await their slices. Unlike their human sisters, the dogs savor the peel. Reese and Mabel know a good thing when they taste it.

As we made our way each evening through the family apple, our young family teased, giggled, out-shouted, talked over each other and argued. Awaiting the apple’s completion and the girls’ excuse from the table, were Nintendo games, homework, Lizzie McGuire, friends ready to gab on the phone. The family apple forced us together, imposed patience upon us, required us to linger at the table. Those added moments were as sweet as the crisp Galas we enjoyed.

With all that’s been going on in our country, in our world in the last few months, I find myself wishing for a metaphorical apple that could be passed along, slice by slice, hand to hand, endowing patience, promising a sweet return. Perhaps we need to slow down enough to recall life’s simple pleasures that are universal to us all: the beloved faces around a family table, those delicious bites of conversation. Maybe if we all lingered around our tables a bit longer, listening and loving, the discordant sirens of our society would be hushed by life’s unifying spots of joy. It happens for me, as the peel unwinds.

To our empty nest, we have introduced a new tradition: an orange now accompanies the apple—the blend of tang and sweetness the perfect analogy for our middle years. So much in life changes, and yet so much stays the same. Our nightly fruit takes me back to the joyfully ordinary days of our young family. It makes me wonder what our daughters, miles away, are eating for dinner; with each succulent bite there is a prayer of thanks that something so simple can be so magnificent.

And I’m not just referring to the apple.

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