23 Elul 5776
by Marc Petrie
I was struck by a September memory this morning. In the cool light I remembered previous trips to Oak Glen for apples. I love this time of transition from the heat of summer to the crisp sweetness of autumn. Childhood memories of fresh pressed cider and donuts, haystacks and the lingering light of Indian summer fill me with joyful anticipation of the season to come.
I would take apples from Oak Glen to my mother, who would retell stories of how the family pressed apples in the cellar in Le Havre. I retold those stories to my son, when we went to Oak Glen for apples and he gathered free fallen fruit off the orchard ground that we would wash and put through the press. And then the inevitable lunch in town with hamburgers and apple pie and ice cold fresh cider.
My son loved those trips. They reminded him of upstate New York, where my sister-in-law lived. He would tell grandma about the apples and cider. My wife would tell her about Winesaps and Pippins, and family memories would abound like the golden sunlight that seemed to permeate those days.
This Elul is a time of transition, more than normal, more than the human heart should bear. Neither my mother nor my mother-in-law are here for stories this year. We spread my mother-in-law’s ashes off Lover’s Point in Monterrey Bay last weekend. My mother passed last December. Her ashes sit on a bookshelf next to her beloved collection of leather hardbound volumes in my bookshelf, patiently waiting to be scattered next summer around the family property in Normandy.
My son left home two weeks ago for college. He no longer is interested in trips to apple orchards with parents. He is moving toward his own destiny.
I am filled with the taste of bitter ash. And yet, this somehow has to be what I atone. There is a spirit of fulfillment in the Book of Life, and I cannot deny G-d’s transition and how we are all placed. At a time when I should rejoice at what I shared, I can only feel regret at what I have lost. A new scroll will be unveiled, another cycle will wind its way through this world, and I have inside what G-d and my family have given me. Elul may be hard, but the taste of cider from those apples fallen to earth remains exceedingly sweet.