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.
Published by Dan Rodricks
Dan Rodricks is a long-time columnist for The Baltimore Sun, winner of numerous national and regional journalism awards, a radio and TV personality, podcaster and fly angler. His narrative memoir, "Father's Day Creek," was published in May 2019 by Apprentice House at Loyola University Maryland. View all posts by Dan Rodricks