Apple trees are not indigenous to North Carolina, but they have been growing in areas of the state, where temperatures are cooler, for hundreds of years. The “classic and charming” cottage on Gray Road where Julie had found some well-deserved happiness is not one of those areas. In fact, when Mama’s father was alive, many locals would accuse him of purchasing the apples he gave to his wife to make the jelly that he would sell. The apple tree produced so much fruit during those years that there was always an abundance of pies, tarts and sauces for anyone who happened by the house.
Mama remembered her father presenting a freshly made apple pie to a door to door salesman. “He didn’t get no sale, but he sure got one of Ma’s fresh pies, and that was betta for sure!”
“Jeremy said it’s lonely.” Julie timidly offered realizing how hair-brained she must’ve sounded.
“Ha, that kid he a hoot, ain’t he. Who talks to trees? That boy, that’s who, the tree whisperer, ha that him.” Mama was smiling at the thought of the boy talking to the tree, and was suddenly struck by the memory of her father sitting under the tree on his bench, the one that he built, his lips moving and head nodding. At the time, Mama assumed that her father was just talking to himself, but now she wondered if he was conversing with the majestic tree as well.
It was on a hot night in August, when Jeremy confirmed that the tree had, in fact, noticed all of the work that had been accomplished in the yard.
“She’s happy, Mama,” he said laying under the tree during a night of star watching.
“Who?” asked Julie, forgetting momentarily about the tree.
“The tree silly. She’s happy now.” The tree wasn’t the only one who was happy. Jeremy had become a different kid right before Julie’s eyes. Although his body was still a non-stop train racing toward a destination that didn’t exist, he had found a new sense of calm, not of body, but of mind. He could spend small amounts of time, mostly immobile, at the table coloring, or reciting the alphabet, something that had evaded Jeremy previously. Lily adored Mama and smiled, brightly, each time she appeared. There were many occasions when Lily would call out “Mama” only to be disappointed when Julie responded. The hustle and bustle of the home, once a source of distraction for Julie, soon became her sanctuary. Julie began to look forward to the commotion that Mama and her large, boisterous, and caring family delivered. While Julie had never considered herself as being an unhappy person, she came to realize that she had been mistaken, for in the first time in a very long time she was truly happy. And before she knew it, their lives settled in to a new routine; a new normal; a better than normal. And, Julie noticed, that neither of the kids had mentioned their father.