I came across his old red-handled clippers, the one he pruned his fruit trees with, and immediately saw him again, on the grassy, sloping orchard of memories. He was in his 70s then and wore a brown corduroy coat and plaid hunter’s cap. It was autumn — or maybe it was spring, whenever you are supposed to prune fruit trees in the Poconos — and he had a cigar in his mouth, and the branches and twigs from pear, peach and cherry trees fell around him in the damp grass. He loved those fruit trees, took expert care of them, protected them from deer. The payoff for his toils came in summer by the bushel. . . . You come across an old tool like that, something you inherited, maybe a paring knife or fine hair brush, and the memories come sweeping in, sad and beautiful, about all the people we miss — grandfathers with wood-handle rakes, grandmothers peeling apples for pies, your father’s fiberglass fishing pole, your mother’s faux-rococo mirror, an aunt’s alligator purse. These things sit on shelves, in tool boxes, in drawers, attics and closets. And one day they fall before your eyes, they land in your hands — they come alive with the touch — and they take you instantly to the orchard of memories, where, if you’re lucky, there’s always plenty to harvest.

11 thoughts on “In the orchard of memories

  1. Aw Dan, coming up on the first anniversary of my dad’s death, you’ve said it so perfectly (as you often do) how we hold the things they used and loved and feel them with us again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this, Dan – my memories of growing up in the Poconos have little to do with pruning shears or cigar-smoking grandpas, but of then unspoiled vistas, starry nights and only occasional passing cars on Rt. 402 to be greeted by kids yelling “Welcome to the Poconos!” from atop a roadside rock. You write so beautifully, in your articles and books. Thanks for ALL the messages and memories. You are a treasure! And feel free to share …

    JoAnn Nauman Ruther from Marshall’s Creek to Monkton


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  3. Beautiful. Brought back memories and since we have a small orchard will hope our children and grandchildren will have similar memories that will provoke other ones.

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  4. My kids say I have saved too much stuff, but it is because of the rush of memories. Like old tools that my father used for his woodwork which we will never use, but all the memories! I envy how you can express all that so well in words.

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  5. I know of what you write, Dan. I came across a small box that I have moved around over a number of years from place to place. When I opened it up I found it contained several hand-embroidered handkerchiefs used by my grandmother, mother, and aunt. So I had something to wipe the sweet tears brought on by the memories they brought forth.

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  6. My daddy’s ice pick. I can still see him using it to break up the ice block in the cooler we took with us when we went fishing on the Bay. He painted the handle red so he could find it in his toolbox.

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  7. Dan
    A wonderful piece. When my Dad passed and we were cleaning out the house the item I took was an long olive fork with a plastic red pimento on top. Such a worthless item full of priceless memories. You story reminded me of that. Thankd

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Dan, I always enjoy your writing. While visiting my sister in Virginia last month I came across a very old sledgehammer in her driveway near the house. We found out later her neighbor had used it to help stake a tree for my sister. As soon as I saw it and picked it up I knew we had to find the owner because I just knew there must be a story. Of course there was for the neighbor who had searched high and low for that hammer which was given to him by a dear and treasured mentor.

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  9. I’ve saved so much but after reading this, you made me wonder if I’ve saved enough. I have my dad’s Navy WW II bracelet—enough to know he survived…maybe that’s all I need!

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