We bought the old house that my aunt and uncle had lived in a generation before and moved into that neighborhood that had once been considered the best in town.
The streets were laid out there along the broad and level hilltop that was the best flat land above the valley. The town was new then and still settling and the men with foresight and money found the wide places for their houses. The pastures, meadows and forests of the old Weimer farm were sold off and, one by one, the better citizens of the town bought lots and built houses there.
But the construction there stopped before all the land was taken. For whatever reasons, there were acres together that were left fallow, in forest and in hayfields, for fifty years. Besides, there were narrow strips between the lots here and there – places where creeks ran in the spring – where the trees were never cut. When we first moved in there was a remnant of an old apple orchard – the trees long neglected and unpruned, bent and bony as witches – that stood at the top of a steep bank behind our house.
We’d go there on those yellow, summer evenings and gather shirtfulls of those mottled, green apples. There were the three of us then. There was my father, who lived only blocks away and was still young. He could walk and even run then and still had something left of that third-baseman’s arm that he had once been known for. And then my son, who was around six-years old when this ritual began.
We’d take our loads of apples to the edge of the hill and drop them there in three piles. One man was the tosser. He’d lob an apple high over the dropping bank and the other two of us would fire away at it with another apple. Only dad was able to hit such a moving target and him only now and then. Neither my son nor I ever hit the tiny, flying bull’s eye. But we never got tired of it, doing it, day after day, as long as Dad came by.
All of that is gone now. A new brick house now sits on that land that was once the old orchard and the steep, falling meadow, over which we tossed the target apples, is a backyard to which we no longer have access. Dad comes by no more. Indeed, he can no longer stand unaided long enough to make a throw. And my son has gone on to his own pursuits and successes.
But in the early mornings I still look out the window in the hallway of the house where we still live, and I can see just a sliver of the grassy hilltop where the three of us once stood and I can almost hear our laughter. I can almost hear us exclaim when Dad threw and hit one of those drifting spheres.