As I walked the paths around Champoeg I happened
upon an apple tree growing near the
river and instantly my mind went to my parents
(for they are never far from my thoughts
and heart these days...)
and a day in my life I remember very vividly.
When I was a young girl,
perhaps around 8 or 10, my Dad was
clearing out some of the woods around our
house. He put his head in the door,
munching on a little apple (his favorite snack),
and said casually that he had found a
wild apple tree.
My Mom tossed her apron on the table,
called us kid's from wherever we were
spending a lazy summer day reading,
with that particular excitement in her
voice that meant some wonderful discovery.
We followed her out to where my Dad
had been working and found this little
apple tree which we had never noticed
there before. It looked quite old
and very bedraggled but it had a few
little wormy apples dangling here and there.
My Mom's voice took on her story telling
pitch and she said
"Kids, what if this tree was planted by Johnny Appleseed?
Do you think he came this far west?!"
We all began to chatter telling what we had learned
about Johnny Appleseed in school
and speculating on whether this might be
one of his trees. Then Mom suggested
that we look for a special mark
somewhere on the tree that would indicate
he had indeed planted it.
To our great disappointment we found
nothing and began to lose interest in the search
when Dad passed by and gave that wry smile
he often gave to Mom when she
was being fanciful and said
"It's just a wild apple tree, Martha,
from a bird dropping a seed."
Mom gave him that look that said
"why do you always have to be so practical?"
and we trooped back to the house.
The great thing about parents like we had
is that they both truly loved history,
Dad the history of Christianity
and Mom, history of all kinds, especially
American and Finnish.
History was exciting! It was worth crying over
and retelling many times, it was more than
words on a page, it was the best part of
learning, and that is why when I walk
along a river and see an apple tree
I think of who planted it and when
and of my parents and how
instilling in a child excitement over an
apple tree carries with it the excitement
every child should have
about the great country we live in.