Over that summer, my family had moved from a row house apartment building to a new neighborhood with nothing but standalone houses.

The neighborhood was old enough that existing homes had been modestly built leaving sizeable yards without fences and the “new to us” side of town was young enough that not every lot had been spoken for which left free and open spaces for doing what kids do: play.

I was in heaven.

It turned out that we kids owned the streets as well as the yards. Cars would inch along while the drivers apologized for momentarily taking up our space for wiffle ball or foot races. With drivers knowing the rules, the streets were excellent for worry-free bike riding from sunup to sundown.

Vacant sandlots checkered the neighborhood providing day long opportunities for pickup games of flag football and softball (softball because Bobby Hodges went home with “way too many bruises” to play hardball anymore).  

We played expansive games of hide and seek at twilight over a two-block range even though it never really worked out well. Parents would yell for their kid to come home, leaving the base manager wondering if the player was lost, wounded, or kidnapped… until they appeared the next night for a new game.

My backyard was full of apple and cherry trees. I still remember the fragrance of them: green early apples, and, later in summer, the red Winesaps appeared. If we could beat the birds, bees, and worms to them, they made for some juicy offerings, and yes, some bellyaches for us greedier pickers. I was living the life of Jack and Jill as was shown in my first-grade reader.

This is when I met my friend Kim. While our birthdays were within days of each other, she was the oldest of her siblings, and I was the youngest of mine. I soon learned “oldest” meant having more responsibility to help around the house and less play time with friends. No matter, I knew early on she would be my “bestie” the day she volunteered to help me pick up the gazillion apples dropped before the grass could be mowed; it was my, without-exception, weekly chore. Piling them into paper bags from the grocer, she took apples home for her mom to make pies which she would then kindly bring back, all spicey warm with butter, cinnamon, and sugar on top for a glistening crust. The neighborhood moms were all resourceful, using every bit of the apple in some fashion.

Surprisingly, I was not a fan of any foods that were combined, not even apple pie. I will just have the apple, please, and thank you.

But now, anything you can attach the word “apple” to agrees with me whether cakes, pies, sauce, betty, crisp, butter, cider, candied, baked, dumplings, strudel, or from the canning jar.

The sight of them and the smell of them baking take me back to that new place we called home, my brothers and sister, my Mom and Dad, apple pick-up days with Kim and our cocker spaniel Moochie munching on apples and dodging the yellow jackets stinging his nose.

Postscript: Leaving nothing to waste, when we ran out of usable softballs at the sandlot, — they got tons of use and therefore split apart regularly — we found half rotted apples that had not made the cut for a pie, were just as fun.

And in that old sandlot, now an orchard grows.

The Apple Orchard fragrance is available in Belle Aroma® No-Mess Fragrance Tarts® and Fragrance Wafers.

Jean Greco for The Gift of Scent

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