Every Child Needs “A Place”

When I was a child, my hard working carpenter of a grandfather, would unload the tools from his truck and load in four rowdy grandchildren.  My brother and my cousins and I would tumble in to the back of his truck, which had a cap, a carpeted bed, and homemade benches for us to sit on (shout out to 1980 something motor vehicle safety).  We’d ride two on one bench and two on the other, facing each other, while our Papap drove the curvy West Virginia roads to the next town over.  When he pulled into Bucks Ice Cream Parlor in New Cumberland, WV, we’d squeal with delight and tumble out of the bed of the truck and straight up to the counter. We had arrived at “our place.” The smells were familiar, the smiling faces behind the counter were the same, my grandfather joking in his thick Arabic accent unchanged.  Even the flavors ordered rarely changed. I can remember mint chocolate chip for my cousin Tania and peanut butter for me.  We’d sit on benches outside of Buck’s struggling to lick the ice cream off the cone before it dripped on to our clothes, avoiding my Teta’s remarks about stains on clothing. We’d finish our treat, hug him and give him a few “Hip, Hip, Hoorays” (usually per his prompting) and climb back into that truck to ride home, signing some repetitive song (Father Abraham…had seven sons….). Bucks was OUR PLACE. We knew what to expect and we liked it. The routine was predictable, safe, comfortable, and happy.
Why am I thinking of Bucks this many years later? Last weekend as I stood in the field of our neighborhood orchard, I thought to myself, “This is my kid’s PLACE” and I immediately thought back to my childhood PLACE. Orr’s Orchard is a family run orchard just a mile or so from our home that is a year round business that grows fruit and ships it around the US and the world.  When I was transplanted to this part of West Virginia, it was their orchard and their nectarines that I first fell in love with.  I adore the hardworking steel town I grew up in, but this seemed so fresh and natural. 
It’s funny how 12 years later, this orchard has become my children’s PLACE. They know and recognize many of the sweet people who work there and will often say things like “Mom, Miss Katie said the strawberries are good today!” or “Miss Lisa is here today!”  They associate fruits with the seasons of our life. Strawberries are the first thing ready after the orchard has been closed for a few months for planting. We pick sweet cherries about the time school is out. Nectarines and peaches are ready in time for a beach trip. Sunflowers and Gerber Daisies are ready to be picked about the time our dear friends from North Carolina come and stay with us during hurricane evacuations. Apples and pumpkins are here at football season.  
They’ve learned about animals through the many unique ones that reside on the orchard – buffalo, pigs, & peacocks to name a few and have religiously voted each year in the contest to name the new baby buffalo born each spring. Last years winner…Tayor Swifttail. We’ve been taught about the practice of renting bees to cross pollinate fruit trees and special heaters to keep crops warm during cool nights by the generous family who runs this beautiful place.  We’ve celebrated birthdays there and participated in festivals, hayrides, and local foods feasts.
So last Saturday morning, as I took a break from our combined efforts of picking 4 buckets of sweet cherries (YUM), I stood back and watched my equally sweet girls energetically climb those ladders and get excited about picking and felt gratitude. In a place I once never imagined could feel like home, my children had their own PLACE.  
So I thought I’d share some beautiful images from our PLACE with you.  Shouldn’t every kid have a PLACE where they can build memories as sweet as cherries? What’s yours?

Picking our favorites from the bins
Apple anyone?

Bee boxes rented to help pollinate trees

Beautiful berries

Buffalo Buddies

The greatest dad around leads the way to the berry patch

My girls and I on a blossom tour at Easter Time

My pumpkin with her pumpkin
Makes me want to be a kid again!

Finding the best berries

Fall fun
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