“Have I ever told you about our cherry trees?” My voice startles T from his first moment of sleep. He squeezes me close reflexively.
“I don’t think so?”
“Right up the hill from our house– the house that burned– we had two cherry trees and a mulberry tree. The mulberry tree was half splayed over the chicken coop, so every year for a little while the chickens ate like kings, and the area around the door was a mess of smooshed fruit that was nasty to walk on. They were white mulberries. Or purple.
One of our cherry trees had big, sweet cherries, but the tree was really small and didn’t produce much.
Our other tree was big, and it grew pie cherries that were small and tart. I hated them. But Saturn liked them. I think that’s why we called it her tree. Well, also she was the only one allowed to pick from the ladder, since she was so much older than me.
Every year when the cherries were ripe we would take milk jugs, cut them open to make buckets, lace our belts through the jug’s handle and go pick cherries. I loved it. It was so exciting and rewarding. And then we’d make cherry pies. Cherry pies were my dad’s favorite– he always asked for cherry pie for his birthday; he didn’t really like cake.”
I realize I used past tense to talk about my father again. I pause to take a breath, and T squeezes me tighter.
“I like your cherry trees.”
I smile in the darkness. “One year we made cherry cordial. Can you do that without alcohol?”
“I’m not sure.”
“We made cherry juice at least. I think we borrowed a juicer? I remember there being a stovetop involved, and a spout. I’m not sure. But we made cherry juice, put it on the tinted jars, with a rubber stopper you kind of fold on? Then we dolled it out in ‘juice glasses,’ 3 or 4 oz servings. Rationing it, you know? But that was okay: it’s rich stuff.”
“Once– wait. This is a happy story if I stop now. Should I stop now?”
“Either way. It’s your story.”
I nestle in and close my eyes. Cherry pies and chickens and frozen buckets of water in the winter. Bunny rabbits and horned worms and welcoming smiles when I burst through the shop door.
Tonight I dream of a childhood in Eden.