My daughter has grown up in an apple orchard. Perhaps not literally, but as we get ready for our annual apple picking trip this weekend, I can't help but be struck by how very much she has changed since our first few fall outings to collect apples.
She is now 11 years old and I'm pretty sure our first apple picking trip was when she was three. It's possible that we went when she was two, but I don't have a specific memory of that. I do, however, remember her glee at the orchard when she was three. One of my very favorite pictures of the two of us is in an oil barrel train at an orchard. Her sheer delight is so evident.
Our trips to the orchard over time show how much some things have changed.
Since we've started apple picking, my daughter has grown several feet. It used to be that I had to hold her up to select the perfect fruit. Now she's almost as tall as I am. (Please note the "almost" in that sentence. Despite her wishes and protests to the contrary, she is not there yet.)
When we first went apple picking, I had to take a camera, because it never occurred to me that I needed a camera phone. I didn't have an iPad to entertain her on the trek to the orchard.
The company on our trips to the orchard have reflected different stages in our lives. Sometimes it has been just me and my girl, sometimes we have gone with friends, sometimes with my daughter's father. For the past three trips, my current husband - my daughter's stepfather - has joined in the fun. Going to the apple orchard with us was a big test for him in my mind. I wondered what would happen if he couldn't have fun with my daughter and I there. My worry was unnecessary. He's a fun apple picker and great orchard buddy.
At the same time, there have been constants.
Being outside in the fresh air away from our daily routine and chores and just wandering among the trees never fails to feel like a fun adventure and seriously good quality family time.
The crunch of the first sweet bite of a juicy apple picked straight from the tree is always a joy, no matter how old you are.
Speaking of fun treats, my daughter has annually looked forward to and appreciated the sugary goodness of apple cider doughnuts made fresh at the orchard. I will not be at all shocked if she wants to serve them at her wedding some day.
We've always loved baking with our apples once back at home. My daughter has always been my helper although now she can make many of the recipes by herself.
Reflecting on her childhood through a series of mental snapshots taken in various orchards makes me grateful that we've made apple picking an annual event. It has underscored to me the importance of tradition, as much for me as for my daughter, and it's one tradition that I hope continues far into the future.
Although she’d like to be taller and have more time to dive into good books, Shannan is awfully happy with her life in the western suburbs, where she moved after a decade of living on the north side of the city. She blogs about parenting a tween at Tween Us on ChicagoNow and at Families in the Loop.
See more of Shannan 's stories here.