Peachtree Island

When I was a kid I picked up a lot of books at flea markets and garage sales. One of the ones that I picked up was Mildred Lawrence's Peachtree Island. It's a special little book. After I went off to university it disappeared and I have no clue whatever happened to it but I decided I wanted another copy. I trolled eBay for awhile, found one, ordered it and plopped it on my shelf but hadn't read it. So Sunday morning, when I was up at the unseemly hour of 6am (raccoons fighting in the backyard woke me up again) I needed something simple and comforting to read. Peachtree Island it was.

When the book opens Cissie is on a train on her way to stay with her Uncle Eben. She has a very pretty doll that looks just like her. Cissie is an orphan who has stayed with various aunt's throughout her life but she's never really had a real home. She's a bit tired of always staying with people and is hopeful that her Uncle Eben will give her a forever home. The day that she arrives she overhears Uncle Eben jokingly telling his housekeeper that if she were a boy he'd keep her forever, only she doesn't realize that it's a joke. She becomes determined to do everything she can to help out in the peach orchard as well as a boy so that she can stay.

Your perspective changes somewhat as you read childhood favourites as an adult. The characters are still lovely but I found myself paying much closer attention to the setting. Peachtree Island is in Lake Erie so I found myself staring at a map attempting to figure out where it was. (It seems to me the inspiration must come from the islands just north of Port Clinton, Ohio.) As the book follows a full year we get to see the various tasks that needed to be done in a peach orchard and I wonder how the process has changed. I wonder if the chemicals mentioned are still used on peach trees (I doubt it). I wonder if the ice in Lake Erie still gets thick enough for the "magic bridge" that Cissie and Uncle Eben use to visit friends on a small, neighbouring island. It made me reflect on how different childhood was then (the book was published in 1948), when I was a kid and now.

I also remember that this was the book that introduced me to apple butter. It wasn't a product that I grew up with. My mother never made it nor did any of my aunts or grandparents make it. I could only imagine what it tasted like and when, years later, I had it for the first time I thought of this book. Maybe next fall, after we move into the house where I'll finally have a kitchen with adequate space for canning, I'll even make some and think of Cissie and her great big paddle that she used to mix the apple butter.