Apple Hell: A Fun Fall Family Tradition.

The girls and I were going apple picking. So what if it was 90 degrees? This was guaranteed fun.

Maybe I should have turned back when they waved me into the third overflow lot and directed me to park on a rocky outcrop. Instead, I snapped open the orchard map so we could check off fun activities. This place was about SO MUCH MORE than apples.

Previous fun-loving families had stripped the low-hanging fruit like locusts, so we pushed deeper through rows of Galas, Honeycrisps, and Jonagolds in search of apples we could reach without a ladder.

We trudged by goats. We felt sad about penned-up peacocks. We explored the incongruous bamboo forest. We dodged a tractor dragging a trailer full of slack-mouthed Carolinians. The hayride, apparently.

Astrid stopped. “I’m hungry.” I handed her an apple.

“It’s covered in pesticides.”

I polished it on my shirt.

“Seriously, mom?”

“One carcinogenic apple’s not going to kill you,” I said. “Today.”

When we had checked off every fun thing on the map, it was time to pay.

The check-out barn smelled of sweat and sorrow.

We stood in line behind all of America. A grown man nearly cried when he reached the front, only to be turned back for failure to bag his apples first. Another woman, dripping with perspiration and toddlers, learned the hard way that the orchard only took cash. A man towed a Radio Flyer wagon filled with apples. The Duggars couldn’t have eaten that many apples in a lifetime.

I slapped our apples on the counter. But we required EVEN MORE APPLE MERCHANDISE. “Hey!” I asked Apple Guy, “Can we buy all our apple stuff right here?”

“Of course!” Apple Guy said, “Whaddya need?” I ticked off fudge apples, caramel apples, cider, donuts. I handed Apple Guy all my money.

I waited, but no products appeared.

“So the cider’s over at the cider counter” – he waved at the barely visible far end of the barn – “the candied apples are in the gift shop, and you can grab the donuts in the Donut Hut.” He stuffed a handful of checkered twist-ties into my hand. “Just give these to the cashier and she’ll know you paid.”

No one was going to crack that code.

I sent Astrid to stand in the block-long donut line, twist-tie in hand. I dragged Akeyla to the gift shop (ten people in line) and the cider counter (uncountable number of people in line). Twenty minutes later, we rejoined Astrid, who hadn’t moved.

The heat index was soaring above 100 degrees. I hung my head between my knees. “Are you, like, going to pass out?” Astrid asked. “Maybe you should eat an apple.”

I was panting. “I (gasp) don’t (gasp) like (gasp) apples.”

“You don’t like apples?” Akeyla asked. “Why are we here?”


“Nobody likes apples!” Astrid said, “You come for” – and here she pulled out a pair of air quotes – “the ‘experience.’ And the donuts.”

At last, toting a piping hot box of donuts and guzzling cider from the jug, we staggered up the hill in search of the cliff upon which our car was parked. I backed out, avoiding dogs, children, and a dude carrying a black backpack filled – I presume – with apples self-baking into a not-delicious pie.

On the main road Astrid spotted an apple stand. “We totally could have just gone there,” she said.

Akeyla yawned. “I really, really, really . . .” she trailed off, rubbing her eyes, “never want to go there again.”

chewed apple

the remains of the day


About Cindy Reed

I hate pants.
This entry was posted in I am the weakest link. Goodbye., Inappropriate Behavior, Self Improvement. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Apple Hell: A Fun Fall Family Tradition.

  1. Nichole says:

    We went there, too, but the grown-ups agreed that the donuts weren’t worth the inevitable heat stroke.

  2. Catherine says:

    I am soooo glad our apple picking is in much cooler weather. Oh my word, that was a good laugh though!

  3. Clare says:

    What a laugh! This made me oddly nostalgic for American autumn with all its apples and hayrides and Americanness. So many great little moments captured with humour and detailed observation. I love how it’s about “so much more than apples”, like, you know, donuts.

  4. Andrea says:

    When I was a kid we had three apple trees in our backyard, left over from an ancient orchard. MY job every day in the summer was to pick up the apples that fell off the trees and rotted into the ground. I have handled thousands of mushy, smelly apples that are covered with every kind of insect there is in the whole of the universe.

    I will NEVER take my family apple picking. EVER.

  5. The Reedster says:

    Akeyla kept picking up the rotten apples and tossing them in our basket because they were the only ones she could reach, and then I had to surreptitiously chuck them out..

  6. Christine says:

    Try Grandad’s Apples next time. They are small, rarely crowded. No long trek to the apple trees.. they’re right there. No real lines to speak of. Tasty apple cider donuts and other random goodies. 🙂
    Of course, I realize that doesn’t make for good blog material 😉

  7. katybrandes says:

    I feel the same way about “Papa’s Pumpkin Patch.” Really, $4 admission for children over 2 years old? To ride tricycles in the circle you’ve blocked off with hay bales? Ridiculous.
    Your post was great, and this line was awesome, “dripping with perspiration and toddlers.” That could explain my day at the Versailles Apple Festival a few years back. Enjoyed it (your post, not that day)!

    • The Reedster says:

      Are the pumpkins just sitting there in a dirt field? When I lived in NJ I saw that for the first time – no plants, no plucking a fresh pumpkin off the vine — just pumpkins arranged on the ground.

  8. I never went apple picking when I was a kid. I went a few times with friends as an adult. I considered taking my own child so that he would have the experience and then when I thought about all his inevitable bitching and moaning, I decided it would be better to let him be mad at me as an adult that I never took him when he was a kid.

  9. wcdameron says:

    I have done the obligatory apple picking thing, but surprisingly, it was not terrible. Maybe because it was Maine? Anyway, your humor is so spot on. This line? Perfection: “One carcinogenic apple’s not going to kill you,” I said. “Today.”

  10. Stacie says:

    Ha! You are so funny. This is making me feel SO much better about being one of those moms who never took her kids apple picking! But in my defense, Shane got to go with his school class and I did chaperone that trip. It wasn’t 100 degree though, whew.

  11. Meg says:

    Hah! I love that your kids knew it was about the “experience” and not about actually liking apples. Great story, Cindy.

  12. Natalie DeYoung says:

    But you had donuts. Doesn’t that make it worth it?

  13. Lisa says:

    “The check-out barn smelled of sweat and sorrow.”
    ah yes.

  14. Pingback: 10 Tips For Reading Your Work to an Audience - Cindy Reed

Comments are closed.