When my grandfather was alive, his fruit trees and gardens were the family's pride and joy. The happiest memories of my childhood stem from those fragrant trees, which I climbed and then stayed in for hours. When the cherries were ripe, we literally ate ourselves sick. Apple season found us picking all the windfalls into barrels and then cutting out all the apples' bad spots before throwing them into the cider press. No bad apples ever went into that cider, and its frothy freshness was the best thing I have tasted, before or since.
The variety of fruits and vegetables kept my grandfather busy for the entire growing season. Between pruning, spraying, and picking, there was more work than a single man should be able to handle. He handled it, though, with love. We enjoyed the fruits of his labor (literally) all year long: Cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, apples, pears, kiwi, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins ... and I only name the best of the harvest; there was much more. Since my grandfather passed away, the orchards and vineyard have slowly gone wild; it is simply too much work for those of us who remain.
Recently, on a visit to upstate New York, I meandered the old plantings to look at the fruit. Pears, apples, and concord grapes are ripe now. I ate some, though I had to eat around the wormy parts. I thought it would make me sad to see the gardens gone wild, but instead it made me feel a fierce nostalgic pride that I can hardly begin to put into words. Here, eight years after his death, I see my grandfather's spirit. In these growing things, propagating on their own and insisting upon living, I see his legacy. I know that if anyone ever wanted to start fighting the bugs and weeds again, they could, and they would reap unparalleled rewards.
These untamed, blemished fruits are somehow beautiful to me. They bear life's scars and survive proudly without anyone's help. A few months of tender loving care and no one would ever suspect that they were feral fruits for several years.