A generous harvest of apples and opportunity

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Mom and dad picked apples in the cool fall Maine air before leaving for Florida. They picked in Charlie Fillebrown's orchard atop Plummer Hill, enjoying the brisk autumn days, the camaraderie of fellow pickers, and Mary Fillebrown's freshly baked apple muffins served at break time. They climbed pole ladders with buckets strapped to their chests, later gently unloading the filled buckets into boxes in the back of Charlie's pickup truck.

At the end of the day, they drove over the dirt road to their rustic cabin on the shores of a small lake. Mom started dinner while Dad stoked up the fire in the black cook stove. After dinner, they would settle down to a quiet evening in the glow of a roaring fire in the fireplace until its warmth lulled them to the edge of sleep.

When my own children were in school and Connecticut's apples needed harvesting, I remembered Mom and Dad's happy fall stint helping to harvest Maine's crop. So I signed on with Max's apple-picking crew in North Haven. Max let me set my own hours - 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. - so I could be home when the children returned from school. He also let me fill the trunk of my old Chevy with "drops," those apples that had fallen to the ground and because of possible bruising were not worthy to be mixed with the hand-picked ones. I became very popular in the neighborhood when I dispensed bags of apples to anyone willing to risk a few with cidery-brown bruises. Sometimes these apples would return to me inside a freshly baked applecake or warm pie.

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Time passed, and one fall when my college-age son was between jobs, I said, "Why don't you pick apples for Max?" Max was pleased to have another member on his apple-picking crew, and my son was glad to be helping in the harvest, just as I had been a few years earlier, and Mom and Dad before me.

At about the same time, I began a job at a small research-and-development firm located in a split-level ranch house on a street zoned for business.

After I had been there only a short while, at my son's behest I brought in a wooden bowl filled with bright red "drops" one day and placed it in the kitchen of the house-turned-office. When my employer saw fall's bounty on his kitchen counter, he inquired among the staff to find out where they had come from. "My son's between jobs," I told him, "and he's picking apples. He thought we might enjoy having some to munch on."

"Tell me a little about your son," my employer said. Now what mother doesn't want to talk about her children? So I recounted to him with appropriate modesty his work experience, interests, and many fine qualities.

After I finished what I trust, in retrospect, was a brief summary, he replied, "Have him come in to see me. We might have something for him here."

I could hardly believe what I was hearing. A possible job for my son? That evening I conveyed my employer's invitation to him. An interview was soon arranged. Much to my son's (and my) delight, he was hired on the spot. He became the protg of a fellow employee who taught him what he needed to know about computers and became a valuable asset to the company. He subsequently made a significant contribution there. Fifteen years later, he is still employed in the field of computers.

I like to think it all began with Mom and Dad's stint in Charlie's orchard. Then I took up the torch, picking for Max. That paved the way for my son to take part in the annual harvest, carrying on the tradition of not only picking apples, but dispensing "drops" to neighbors and friends, one of whom happened to be my boss.

You never know what kind of turn an apple is going to take - whether it's going to find you a job or just make you happy.

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