A Glimpse of What’s To Come

September 28, 2010

Driving down St. Francis Road toward LaGrange this morning and I was floored by a grove of trees decked out in orange and red and green. It’s the first time I really noticed a color change, the first time fall has been front and center. Now I am getting truly geeked for it.

Every fall for the past twenty years, we have visited an apple orchard, picked pumpkins and ate cinnamon doughnuts – somewhere. Last year, Tony and I went alone, driving out to County Line Orchard in Indiana while Dominic and Eliza slept in. While we ate the doughnuts hot and crispy at the Orchard, they had theirs later, cooled and packaged. It was not the same.

When we first started traveling to that orchard, it was about 18 years ago and I was pregnant with Eliza. We rode on the tractor, picked pumpkins, propped Dominic in amongst the heap of orange and made photographs. He helped pick apples, riding on Tony’s shoulder – life was such a happy adventure, everything was interesting and amazing. The orchard was homey, cozy, with a small shop with a bakery and apples in baskets, bags and bins. Older ladies cut up apples for tasting and the girls at the check-out knew how the orchard-made asparagus guacomole tasted. There was fudge.

Now, the orchard is a commercial enterprise, with two huge barns filled with people eating pulled pork sandwiches, fried potatoes and lemon shake-ups. There are wandering mariachi bands and advertisements for rock and roll shows in the evening. The check-outs are working furiously, ringing up coloring books, toys made in China and food items from all around the country. It is a great deal more expensive. It is not nearly as much fun, but there is still fudge.

We should have seen the writing on the wall years ago when they eliminated the honey house to make room for a weighing station. We really should have noticed when the parking lot went from grass to asphalt. When they added on to that original small shop, we should have known that things would not remain the same.

I understand that it’s good for the family that owns the property. They are making substantially more money with all these “fall fest” types of activities. They are employing more people, generating more sales tax to benefit their schools.

But we really miss that small feeling, that feeling of something untouched and real. It is now just another generic place, filled with plastic pumpkins, plastic toys, plastic people and a plastic character. The specialness is gone, and I feel sorry for the folks who visit now and get a Disneyfied version of an apple orchard.

I will buy my apples at the grocery store this year. But we will miss the cinnamon doughnuts.

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