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A Basket of Apples [LEWC]

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posted on Jul, 17 2012 @ 11:50 AM
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A Basket of Apples



About thirty years ago when I was still a twenty-something, I had a little place out in the country with a few apple trees. They produced more than I could eat, so I often gave them away to neighbours who sometimes in return gave me eggs, lettuces and other goodies. I wasn't concerned about getting anything back; it was just that I would rather give them away than have them go to waste.

Well one day I was planning to visit my parents. They also lived in the country, about thirty miles away. Although they had a huge garden the apple trees they'd planted years before had never done very much, which saddened my folks because they loved apples. I'd never figured out why they were so fond of them, but they were, so I decided to pick some of the best ones from my trees and take them over. I gave them all a shine and put them into a little wicker basket, covered it with a brightly-coloured dishcloth, sat the basket in the car and headed off to Mum and Dad's.

When I got there Dad was out in the garage doing some work on his car, so because he didn't like to break off a task once he'd started I left him to it and just took the basket indoors. Mum was in the living room, resting with her feet up after a morning of weeding the garden.

When I walked in Mum smiled in that special way that mothers do for their children. I love that smile. It's one of the most beautiful and genuine things in the whole world.

We exchanged greetings and then she said, “What do you have there?”

I took the cloth off the basket. “Well, there were so many apples on my trees and I know you like them, so I picked some for you.”

I gave her the basket and she took it in her hands and sat it in her lap and looked at it for a long moment, and after a softly-spoken “Thank you,” she began to cry. She cried, gently but deeply if you understand me, and I was so surprised by her reaction that it was a few seconds before I could even say anything, but as I began to speak she just held up her hand and shook her head a little and managed to say, “It's all right. Just give me a few moments.”

I nodded dumbly and sat in the armchair next to her and as she wiped her eyes with a small floral handkerchief that she always kept tucked up one sleeve somewhere, she told me once again that she would be okay in a minute or two. “And then – then I'll explain everything,” she concluded.

Nodding again, I thought a moment then asked, “Would you like me to make some tea?”

“Yes... That – that would be nice.”

I went off to the kitchen and began preparing a pot of tea. I am English-born, as are my parents and theirs before them for many generations, and the ritual of tea is one that often helps. It also gave my Mum a little time to be alone.

A few minutes later when I brought in the tea tray, Mum was holding one of the apples and turning it slowly and studying it, almost as if it were a beautiful green crystal ball and she was peering into its depths to discern the images that were there.

And in a way, she was.

I poured the tea and after taking a sip and sighing, “Ah, that's better,” Mum placed her cup and saucer on the tray and then, taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, she looked down at the basket and began, “These apples – this basket of apples – suddenly took me back to another time, another place, and it just overwhelmed me.” She sniffed and managed a slightly crooked smile. “You know how it is, sometimes.”

I smiled and nodded.

“When you took the cover off the basket and I saw those apples there, looking so lovely, I suddenly saw myself as a girl again, back in the War.”

The War. For many people of my mother's generation, there was only one War.

My mother grew to womanhood during World War Two, and I already knew from what she'd told me that it had been a very difficult time, because she had lived in a village just outside of Portsmouth, England, which was home to the largest naval base in the southern British Isles and was therefore a prime target for the Luftwaffe bombers that flew over, often night after night, dropping their deadly loads and sometimes missing their main targets, the 500-pound bombs falling instead on the homes and shops and schools in the town itself, or even on the smaller villages and townships nearby.

She had told me what it was like, to go down into their cellar every night when the air-raid sirens sounded and hide there in the dark, a young teenage girl and her mother huddled together in one corner as that was supposed to be safer if the floor above them caved in, huddling there and trying not to scream when a bomb shook the house with a heavy thump and everything creaked and groaned and it seemed that only the stacks of books from the cellar floor to the ceiling were holding up the building above them.

The girl who would become my mother was the only child her mother still had at home. She was the youngest and her three brothers were in the RAF, her two sisters also serving in the WAAF, so it was rare that any were home for more than a few days at a time. And as her own father was lost at sea just three days after her fourteenth birthday when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat, he would never be coming home.

So, most nights in the darkest days of the war, she and her mother hid in that cellar and prayed to any God that might be listening to let them live through another night, prayed that this rotten, horrible, senseless, stinking miserable war would end and they would live to see it end, prayed for the day when all the family could be together once more and they could at least mourn their father in peace.

(Continued to conclusion in next post)




posted on Jul, 17 2012 @ 11:51 AM
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“...I suddenly saw myself as a girl again, back in the War,” she'd said. And just with those opening words she began to take me back into her memories.

“It was almost impossible to find apples,” my mother went on. “A lot of trees got pulled out to make room for growing vegetables, and especially in the south where we lived, there was always the risk that any apples might have bits of shrapnel in them anyway, if they hadn't already lost all their blossoms, that is.”

Mum sighed and shook her head sadly. “It's strange, the things you miss. We missed those apples. We really did...”

She took one of the apples out of the basket and holding it up, Mum continued, “Then one day your Uncle Ron came home on leave. He was in the RAF, you know, flying bombers. And sometimes he was assigned to the crews that flew new ones over from Canada.”

“From Canada?”

“Yes. It was the fastest way to get them over to the UK. They flew them over, but instead of carrying bombs in them they loaded them with food, because so many ships were lost that we were always short of food. Everything was rationed.” She placed the apple back in the basket. “Well as I said, one day Ron came home on leave, and he brought a half-case of Canadian apples with him. The crew were give a half-case each as a special allowance for all they went through to get the bombers safely home.”

Mum produced her handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. “My mother and I sat and stared at that half-case of apples like they were made of pure gold. We didn't even think of just taking one each and eating it – not right away. We just sat and looked at them and my mother cried and your Uncle Ron hugged her and smiled the way he always does when he doesn't really know what to say. But eventually – I think maybe after a couple of days, when Uncle Ron was ready to go back to his base – my mum finally took one of the apples and unwrapped it from its tissue paper (because every one was wrapped in tissue paper, you see; that's how we used to keep them) and she cut it in half and so we ate a half each and oh...”

She wiped away more tears and breathed, “I never cried so much just – just eating an apple. It tasted like heaven... I couldn't even remember how long it had been since I last had an apple. It couldn't have been much more than two or three years, I suppose, but that's a long time when you're only fourteen or so.”

I just bit my lip and nodded.

“Ron moved the half-case up into the attic for us before he left,” Mum continued. “That was the best place. The cellar was too damp. And early every morning, I went up into the attic to wipe the apples. I had to take each one out, unwrap it from its tissue paper and wipe it with a soft cloth to make sure it was perfectly dry, then wrap it again. And when they were all done, I carefully put them all back in the case. And while I was wiping the apples, I sat there and looked out of the tiny window and down there in the town and the harbour, I could see the smoke rising from the fires from the bombing. I used to sit there and think about how wonderful it must be, to live in a country where you can grow apples and pick them, and nobody drops bombs on you...”

“Oh, Mum...”

She stood and so did I. We looked at one another and then we hugged and said nothing for some time, and then she sighed, “It was my little time of peace, you see.”

“Yes... Yes, I see.”

Fin


edit on 17/7/12 by JustMike because: !



posted on Jul, 21 2012 @ 01:41 PM
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Thank you for that. I can not even imagine the horrors that people in that time era went through. It is hard for me as an American, (with every necessity just a trip to Wal-Mart away), to think of apples as being so precious. I love the story.

Well done,



posted on Jul, 21 2012 @ 02:47 PM
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reply to post by Doodle19815
 

Thank you. That experience with Mum is something that has often come back to me over the years, so even when I've gone through some pretty bad times, I measure them against what she went through -- and well, I have to consider myself very fortunate.

Mike



posted on Aug, 22 2012 @ 01:41 AM
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Mike, this was an absolute gem of a story. And it is based on real life? (Forgive me as I don't understand how the writing contests work)

You certainly have a way of picking something (an apple, or a flower
) and just flesh out the entire story with the rounded characters.

I enjoyed reading your story about the wildflower so much that it actually inspired me to post my own short story to ATS.

I am glad I found this one as well.
Keep up the most excellent work.



posted on Aug, 27 2012 @ 07:38 AM
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The following is my opinion as a member participating in this discussion.

reply to post by NarcolepticBuddha
 

Hi NB,

thank you very much for your kind remarks.


Yes, this story is very much based on real events from own life. I wrote it for the LEWC competition. (Details of the topic matter in the thread by Masqua here.)

I didn't write it in any expectations of winning anything -- which is just as well as I didn't
-- but rather as a challenge to myself and also as something that might help to inspire others to share.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story and that "The Flower" inspired you as well. It truly means a lot to me.

And for anyone reading this thread, please browse through the Member Short Stories Forum as well. There are some wonderfully gifted writers among us and when I have the time I enjoy reading their work.

Best regards,

Mike

As an ATS Staff Member, I will not moderate in threads such as this where I have participated as a member.

edit on 27/8/12 by JustMike because: fixed coding glithc. I mean glitch...



posted on Sep, 8 2013 @ 06:54 PM
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Mike, this story touched me so much. First, the love and respect that you have for your Mom shined through...and I love that. To me, the meaning of your story is how we take things for granted, until it is taken away. The simplest thing can take on great importance once you realize you may never see it again. It also shows how one simple, kind gesture (bringing the extra apples just because you knew they would enjoy them) can mean so much more than we know. Thank you for this....it's beautiful.....just like your heart.



posted on Sep, 9 2013 @ 03:26 PM
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reply to post by StealthyKat
 

Thank you, Kat. And you're right; we all tend to take things for granted and then we realize their blessings when we don't have them. It's a little lesson that sooner or later, we all learn in some shape or form.






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