Bill and I met my sister, Liz, in Milford so she could follow us to Donna and Jerry’s annual Fall Bash in Easton. We took the Merritt Parkway to Route 59, a road I’m very acquainted with from childhood. This time every year our family would take a drive to Silverman’s Farm; our grandparents, who lived in NYC, would come to the country for the weekend and join us for the trip. We loved watching the cider mill press apples, making the sweet, thick nectar right before our eyes. The pumpkins were free if we could guess their weight within two ounces, either way. Grandma, who owned a grocery store with my grandfather, was used to handling 5 and 10 lb bags of rice, large cans of beans and other vegetables, whole chickens, so we would take great care picking out the perfect pumpkin and offer it to her with high hopes of getting it for free. She would take the orange orb, concentrate as she cradled it in her hands and give the man at the scale her answer. Sometimes she’d guess correctly to our delight, sometimes she’d miss the mark. Either way it was always a great day; we’d come home with pumpkins, apples, cider. I recounted our childhood trips to Bill as we passed the farm where traffic slowed, allowing cars to turn into the parking lot. When we got out of our cars at the party Liz and I reminisced about those days too, she remembered it the same way I did.
Once we arrived at the house I got busy cutting apples for the press Donna and Jerry own. The yellow jackets were relentless, landing on the cutting boards, in the buckets of cut apples, on my hands. I tried ignoring them, tried diverting their attention to apple slices I dropped in the grass but they kept flying around us in small swarms until I’d put my knife down, backing away for a brief respite.
My friends’ yard is expansive. Eggplants, peppers and parsley were still plentiful in their garden and offered to anyone who wanted some. Jerry has a riding mower, attached a trailer to the back and gave hay rides throughout the afternoon. I took a break from cutting apples and joined the first group out. He rode us around the property, weaving his cargo around the maples and evergreens, before taking us out on the street to the cul-de-sac at the end of their road.
The activities were plentiful, something for everyone – bingo in the loft of the barn (prizes awarded to the winners), apple pressing and pumpkin carving in the yard, karaoke singing on the back deck. We all brought something to eat and grazed on chips, cut veggies, dip, cheese, crackers and shrimp before the main course was served. Already full, I heaped my plate with mac and cheese, vegetarian lasagna and chili; other choices were hot dogs with all the fixings, pulled pork, pasta fagioli and chicken soup. Cupcakes, cookies, cheesecake, chocolate truffle, candy had their own space in the corner of the barn, the real reason I was stuffed; in truth I ate dessert before, during and after dinner.
When the sun set the pumpkins were lit from within, numbered and displayed on tables and cardboard boxes; mason jars with correlating numbers taped to the glass were lined up on a bench waiting for us to cast our votes. We gathered in the garage, lights dimmed, and watched as handmade trophies were awarded to third, second, first place and Best in Show.
Karaoke competition came next with groups singing “I will survive,” “Stop, in the name of love,” “Hit me with your best shot,” and the winners, three young girls who had just met during the day and sang “Somewhere over the rainbow,” in perfect harmony. After the last trophy was awarded we filled a plastic container with some dessert, collected our crock pots and a jug of the cider made during the day and gingerly walked down the long, dark driveway to our cars. Hugs and kisses were given, thanks spoken for including us in what, for me, is one of the highlights of Autumn. On our way home, back on route 59, I noticed the darkened buildings of Silverman’s Farm.