In the corner of the yard, beside the white picket fence, and about fifteen feet from where the street sweeper comes once a month to clean out the debris on the edge of the road, we planted an apple tree. She’s a beauty, quietly blessing us with sweet flowers in spring, spreading a blanket of shade over the lacecap hydrangea who sits at her feet, and giving us glimpses of hope in a harvest as summer reaches its peak. We’ve tried to shoo away the bugs who nibble on her fruit, and we sometimes stare at her spotted leaves wondering what disease might be coursing through her system. Last year we pulled her trunk back and harnessed her so she could withstand more hurricane force winds. Oh, and we also have to put up with the squirrels. Criminal squirrels who hide half-eaten apples in the crook of the dogwood tree or drop them under the fence to rot. Our little apple tree has been through a lot the past few years. We pay careful attention to her—most of the time—always watching and waiting for her to bear fruit.
Well, last week she delivered her first harvest.
As I drove away for a meeting after dinner one night, I watched as my husband and three of our children walked to the corner of the yard and began to pick. I pulled to the side of the road, climbed out of the van, and walked over to the fence. Meeting or not, there was no way I was going to miss this moment. One at a time, he held the kids up to let them pluck the apples from the branches. “Don’t drop them,” he would say. “Pull a little harder. That’s it—no, I said don’t drop them! Put them down gently.” I watched with a smile on my face as they not so carefully harvested our first crop.
When I arrived home later that evening, there on my dining room table was a basket filled with apples. Apples without bar coded stickers. Apples without the waxy finish tricking you to think perhaps they’re fake. Our apples have warts and imperfections. Some still have leaves attached to the stems and small holes from the bugs we couldn’t quite destroy. They smell like apple pie. Our little tree produced edible, delicious, beautiful apples.
Growing up I envisioned myself living in one of three places: a remote village of a foreign country, a farmhouse with a wrap around porch, or a high-rise apartment building somewhere in the Middle East or North Africa, preferably with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Never once did I think I would live in the state in which I was raised. A 1940’s cape cod, nestled behind a white picket fence, within the city limits was not my idea of home.
But here we are. And despite all the odds for military families, we’ve lived in this same house for over six years. It’s home. I feel it when we go through the tunnel and across the bridge over the Bay. Home is the sound of the fire engine from the station three blocks away. It’s the elderly neighbor who drives down the one way street the wrong way every afternoon, at 4:57pm. Home is walking to the school yard as the sun sets so the kids can swing on the monkey bars and run around the baseball field. Home is calling out, “I’m opening the oven now! Don’t come through the kitchen,” as my children do laps around the downstairs just before dinner. Home is plastered walls, sloping floors, and an office in the bathroom. It’s three sets of bunkbeds for kids who are quickly outgrowing this space, but can’t stand the thought of leaving it. Home is mismatched chairs and my husband’s bookshelf which I still don’t like after fifteen years.
And now, home is apples from the front yard.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time this summer scouring the internet for the perfect home. One with at least four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen with an island large enough to seat four people, and a garage for all of the woodworking tools. It needed a yard that could hold an in-ground pool with room leftover for a vegetable garden, flowerbeds, and outdoor dinner parties. I didn’t find one. Shocking, I know. Although we did go to an open house and I tried hard to convince myself—and my husband—it was a good idea to invest everything into this ‘perfect’ home on the water. I assure you, it’s not a good idea. We get automatic listing updates from a realtor, but nothing is ever just right. The homes are either too expensive, too small, too close to the houses around it, or need too much remodeling for the price tag. Did I mention how expensive they are?
But God gave us apples.
I’d still love a bigger kitchen and another bedroom—or two—so the kids can spread out and I could have an office without a bathtub. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop dreaming of a villa in North Africa, or a farm with goats and chickens. But for now, our little home on the corner will do. And when I find myself growing greedy, envying what isn’t mine to have, and grumbling about what is, I’ll remember the apples, and I’ll be grateful.