And Rain Makes Applesauce

Every fall, I used to read a picture book with the title “Rain Makes Applesauce”, to my Kindergarten students. I never owned my own copy. It came from the Hutton School library, Lincoln’s library. It was a funny, quirky, off-beat little book with the delightful refrain, “You’re just talking silly talk”, and it was always a hit.

I thought of it yesterday afternoon as it rained and I made applesauce. Applesauce is not supposed to be my job; it was Lincoln’s and this is the first time I’ve made it on my own. It’s not that it is difficult — it isn’t— but getting motivated and staying motivated to cook for myself has been a struggle ever since he went into care. Remembering the book made me smile, then it made me feel old, as the memories seemed so long ago. But I had all these apples… and I love applesauce… and it was raining. Again. Reason enough, I suppose.

As I chopped and mushed and stirred and rounded up jars and lids, to the back-sound of the rain, I also remembered all the times we’d worked together in the kitchen… Linc, me and CBC. I used to talk to the radio and talk to him. He mostly listened.

You know they can’t hear you, he might say.  The voices on the radio can’t hear you.

But you can!

I can, he would say and then chuckle.

If you want me to be quiet, I can be.

And that would make him chuckle again.

It was our shtick. For no one else but him and me. Old-married-couple’s shtick. I miss it.

His cooking style was tidy and efficient, well-planned, librarian-ish. Mine was chaotic and often interrupted by a need for a trip to the grocery store for a missing ingredient.

I’ll go, he would say, almost always.

Grocery shopping was also his job. It didn’t become mine until he needed help. And, when the time came when I knew he could no longer go alone, I also discovered the goodness of the people who worked at our local Overwaitea store…the cashiers who patiently coached him through the steps for using his debit card, who waited while he bagged his own groceries, who left the till to find the things he couldn’t find himself. Department managers made a point of coming over to talk to us and teenage kids who’d been his students, and had part-time jobs filling shelves, greeted him.

Hi, Mr. Ford, they’d say.

Sometimes they would turn to me and tell me how his library had been haven for them or how he showed up in their classrooms with books, newly catalogued, that he knew they would like. They told me how that made them feel. They remembered the Friday fieldtrips. His goal was to get them out of the school every Friday afternoon and he came close to doing just that that. Lincoln and his kids and a few parents roamed the valley and the hills, even visiting the rattlesnake dens. He showed his kids where they lived. He taught them the meaning of home.  And as they told their memories, everyone held their sorrow and their honouring in their gentleness with him, and in their eyes.

Yesterday when it came time to put the apple mash through the food mill, I discovered it was a job for two well-behaved hands.  On the best day, I’ve got one reasonably obedient hand and one total brat. I settled on a system that involved hugging the bowl while I turned the handle on the mill and, to the accompaniment of some moments of involuntary Parkie-dancing, I managed to get some applesauce through the mill and into the bowl… and the rest on me, the counter and the floor.

At one point, I was close to tears with frustration and the melancholy of the rain and the missing of him and so I took a break.

This appeared on a friend’s Facebook page. It is a poem, “Epitaph”, by Merritt Malloy and is included in the reform Jewish prayer book as an option before reading more traditional forms of liturgy. So, thank you, Merritt Malloy, for such beauty in the writing, and Galen Broaddus, the blogger who filled me in on the origin of the piece, and Linda Wilkinson for your wisdom and kindness in posting.

When I die give what’s left of me away
to children and old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry,
cry for your brother walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,
and by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
give me away.

“Let me live in your eyes and not in your mind”.  Oh boy. I’m not there yet, not able to do that yet. Lincoln lives so very much in my mind. I don’t know when I will be able to give him away, but I hold that place and time in possibility, in gratitude, and in wonder.

Rain makes applesauce and rain makes silly talk and kitchen-shtick. Such a perfect little no-sequitur leading to such perfect and tender and bittersweet places… to touching hands and giving to others what I need to give him and to remembering what others have given to us.  

And to letting go and to the sureness of love that doesn’t die.