My grandchildren are the apples of my eye. So it was only fitting that I was hit in the eye by a falling fruit while apple picking with the kiddies.
Chloe, 9, and her sister, Lilly, almost 6, witnessed the senseless attack, which occurred during an otherwise pleasant visit to a farm with my wife, Sue, and the girls’ parents, our daughter Lauren and her husband, Guillaume.
The day began innocently enough with a wagon ride to the orchard. The wagon, which was packed with about three dozen people, was pulled by a tractor that looked almost as old as the farm, which dates back to 1661.
Tom Wickham – who is not nearly that old but, like me, is no spring chicken, and whose family owns the 300-acre property, which indeed has chickens – drove the asthmatic vehicle over a dirt road rutted with so many bumps, holes and ridges that my backside could have used a set of shock absorbers.
When we mercifully arrived at the orchard, Tom told the pack of pummeled pickers that there were three kinds of apples to choose from: Macoun, Honeycrisp and Snapdragon.
“Eat as many as you want,” he said pleasantly.
That was the signal for me to stuff my face with my second-favorite fruit. My favorites are grapes, but only those that go into wine.
Sue and I spent $20 for a small paper bag that we could fill with as many apples as it would hold. That proved to be a problem when the flimsy handles broke and I had to carry the heavy load from the bottom while not allowing the overflowing apples to spill out so I could trip on one of them, fall on my face and make instant applesauce.
But an even more menacing situation loomed. In full view of Chloe and Lilly, I reached up to a high branch of an apple tree and dislodged a Honeycrisp that was the size of a bocce ball and almost as hard.
The ample apple plummeted at warp speed and plunked me in the right eye. Fortunately, I was wearing a pair of sunglasses that didn’t make me look cool but did absorb the blow and saved me from sporting the kind of shiner usually seen on the loser of a heavyweight boxing match.
“Are you OK, Poppie?” Chloe asked with great concern.
“Yes, sweetheart,” I replied.
Lilly, relieved that her grandfather hadn’t been knocked senseless, which is my normal state anyway, summed things up by saying, “You sure are clumsy, Poppie.”
Laden with the fruits of our labors, we awaited the wagon ride back to the farm stand.
I told Tom about my mishap and added, “Everything happens in trees.”
Tom, a laconic gent, smiled.
Lilly said, “Poppie, you’re so silly.”
Chloe said, “Classic Poppie.”
Halfway through the return trip, the tractor wheezed and stopped. Tom got out and walked over to the side.
“Maybe he’s calling AAA,” I told Lauren.
“It would stand for Apple Apple Apple,” she replied.
Proud of her ability to match me pun for pun, I said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Tom got back on the tractor and started it up again. When we reached the parking lot, we loaded our respective bags of fruity pickings into the car and went to the farm stand for an apple (of course) pie.
Later, when Sue and I got home, we dumped our bag and counted 26 apples. One of them, a large Honeycrisp, had a bruise.
“It’s the one that hit me,” I said. “Which just goes to prove that an apple a day won’t keep the eye doctor away.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via jerryzezima.blogspot.com.