Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

A Wrinkled Apple in My Hand

By Dolores Schaefer, Becketwood Member

This autumn afternoon, I cleaned out the fruit bin in my kitchen refrigerator. Nestled in the back, I found half a bag of organic apples—all shriveled and rubbery. As I held an apple in my hand, my thoughts drifted to the Jura Mountains in eastern France where Madame Douge opened her spacious nineteenth-century home to international students from the University of Besancon. In 1960, the year I worked as a Teaching Assistant, there were six young adults housed under her roof. We rented rooms and dined at her table.

My sparsely furnished room on the second floor with its adjoining turret overlooked a vast, tangled garden. Down the hall behind closed doors a bathroom with hot running water nestled under a staircase. Gleaming dark wooden floors, slippery and spotless from daily waxing and buffing, united these functional spaces. Everywhere I looked, I noted oil paintings inspired by the celebrated regional artist Courbet.

We prepared our own breakfasts in her kitchen where we kept our eggs in pantry drawers and toasted bread on forks over open-gas flames. At noon, we returned from classes and libraries to join Madame for our main meal. She always served three courses at the long dining room table surrounded by buffets displaying polished silver and antique plates. In an adjacent alcove, we sipped French-press coffee before returning to classes. In the evening, we anticipated hot soup made from noon leftovers along with freshly baked baguettes. Without fail, our dessert was a platter of cheeses and apples.

There seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of apples in the attic. When I arrived in October, they were shiny and firm. As the months progressed, they became more and more wrinkled. Their rosy skins gradually puckered. Eating one in French fashion with a knife and fork required ingenuity.

There was no need to rub the apple in my hand as I stood in my Becketwood kitchen. Madame Douge’s boarding house had reappeared.



Leave a Reply

  • Carol September 25, 2020, 2:19 pm

    Lovely and vivid!

    • ruthgaylord September 25, 2020, 2:24 pm

      Thank you, Dee. What a lovely memory!!

  • Maura Kolars September 25, 2020, 2:30 pm

    Madame’s home appeared for me, too!

  • Helen Gilbert September 25, 2020, 3:33 pm

    Thank you for this, Dee. What a lovely example of the way memory works, when a little thing brings back such rich experience.

  • Catherine Nicholl September 25, 2020, 4:11 pm

    Thank you , Dee, for this vivid recollection.

  • lindabrandtmph September 25, 2020, 11:36 pm

    Wonderful memory. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Anonymous September 26, 2020, 1:01 am

    Beautifuly told!

  • Laura Lindell September 26, 2020, 7:18 am

    Very evocative – it was a delight to read this and be transported along with you to that certain place and certain time in France. I love your ending, too (an apple as a crystal ball) – just right!

  • judy solmonson September 26, 2020, 3:58 pm

    The color and joy of past memories bring a richness to our current lives. Thank you.

  • Anonymous October 1, 2020, 6:40 am

    Hi Dolores!
    Your Madame Douge’s ‘dining room’ reminds me of the austere kitchen of a monastery where I lodged one summer in France. One ate what one bought and prepared oneself! Since I didn’t cook and still don’t, I was finally able to drop a few pounds!!
    Cheers! Marion

  • Pat and Richard Laybourn October 2, 2020, 1:09 am

    Merci de nous faire partager a tes mémoires en France, Dee. Pour moi aussi il y a tant de choses de se rappeller, surtout mon cousin a Strassbourg qui vient de mourir il y a trois ans et mes etudes a L’institut de Touraine a Tours en 1973. Nous espérons que tous va bien chez toi.

    Toujours nos amities,

    Pat et Richard

  • Jean A Byhardt October 7, 2020, 8:33 pm

    What a beautiful memory! It never ceases to amaze me what can trigger a past event. You described your home in France so vividly I felt I was there having breakfast with you! I may never look at an apple the same way again.

  • Mary Olson October 12, 2020, 4:27 pm

    Beautifully written. It sounds like you had a marvelous experience!

  • Anonymous October 26, 2020, 4:07 pm

    As always, a beautiful, vivid description.