The struggle began many midnight suns ago.
One summer, my best friend “Michelle,” nicknamed after the movie “Romy and Michelle,” pulled up in her SUV in our driveway unexpected. She does this every she surprises me with something.
“What in the hell?” I asked her as she was pulling a massive thing out of her vehicle.
“Girl, I told you I was going to buy you a tree!” she yelled as she struggled trying to get the tree out.
“What am I going to do with this?” I asked. She’s done this before. She’s dropped off rose plants, vegetables, and at one point, a massive hunk of dirt with bright green chives growing out of it, “Dad wanted to get rid of some of his chives in the backyard, and they’re spreading everywhere!” she told me. The massive hunk of green chives now resides in my large herb box and I’ve named her “Mr. Singh’s chives.”
“Gurl, It’s a crabapple tree!! You have to plant it in the backyard!” she looked at me as if I was hopeless being. This has been the signature look she has given me throughout the decades of friendship. I have been given this look many times–such as this one time when she gave me instructions to hot glue some froo-froo shit on these styrofoam balls for a wedding decoration. The froo-froos were not strategically aligned as she instructed, and as I was attempting to figure out how to avoid getting the hot glue on my fingers, she yelled, “What the hell happened?!? The flowers need to be glued diagonally!” I gave her back my what-the-f*ck-how-do-you-glue-shit-diagonally look. But, I didn’t argue back, and simply re-glued that shit back–diagonally.
No one can argue with the Alaskan Martha Stewart.
So, there we were. We carried that tree to the backyard. We have done so much together in the past, and I can say that carrying a crabapple tree definitely was not in the top ten.
“Ok, Bryan has to plant it. Gotta go! Talk to you later!” and off she went running her errands.
The husband planted the tree in the corner of our backyard. At the time, we still had an open backyard. The backyard blended in with an acre of wooded area that oftentimes served for the mama moose and her babies to go foraging for food.
One winter, a moose got a hold of one side of the crabapple tree. This invasive much needed act, on behalf of the moose, led the poor thing (tree) to be naked on that side for a few years.
But, I never gave up on her.
Every summer, without much knowledge of how to comfort a crabapple tree, I trimmed her foliage. I heard that by trimming one side, this can perhaps encourage growth on the other side. I also talked to her and apologized that we didn’t get a fence up to protect her and how generous of her to help nourish a moose as she slept during the winter. When we finally put a fence up, I still spoke to her, and anyone walking along the other side of the fence was probably wondering who the cray-cray was talking out loud.
When she started to blossom, and finally bear fruit–I had no idea what to do with the crabapples. Until one day years ago, my lovely student assistant from the office (who is a true Alaskan–she hunts, she fishes, and she schooled me on all things Alaskan) told me that I can make crabapple jelly. She told me that it’s easy because crabapples have a lot of pectin.
So, I attempted to make crabapple jelly…every fall season. And, every season, I failed–not just simple fail, but epic-face-planting-fail.
They were all crabapple soup.
This season, I was determined. I was determined the way David Sedaris was determined to walk all those miles just so he can fulfill his fitbit goals.
I was so determined that I did what everyone would do.
I Googled a recipe, and I searched YouTube.
The harvest from the tree yielded buckets and baskets of crabapples. They reminded me of rubies: deep red in their plumpiness.
I spent weeks making the jelly–because apparently it takes about eight (8) hours to drain the crabapple juice through a cheese cloth. I am not a patient person in the kitchen, but I was really forced to practice this behavior.
And finally, after endless amount of bags of sugar and crabapple goodness–the jelly firmed up, and I felt the same success as I did when I opened the oven of baked french macarons, and they had feet.
After I filled those mason jars with the rubied jelly, I did what I always do–I handed them out to friends and thanked them for testing out this accomplishment.
Oh, and my lovely crabapple tree is now asleep for the season–protected, nestled, and well-loved.