Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Oak Apple Day: The Story of Apple Bopping and Bum Pinching

“It’s Oak Apple Day,” said 10-year-old Poppy Marigold, during lunch at Kensington Park Gardens Primary School.

Each year, the British celebrate Royal Oak Day on May 29 in celebration of King Charles II’s birthday. At risk of being stung with nettles or pelted with bird’s eggs by her schoolmates, Poppy wore an oak apple round her neck. She even tucked sprigs of oak leaves in her pockets, to make sure that she was adequately dressed for the day. 

As tradition had it, if a student didn’t wear a costume in celebration of King Charles II’s birthday, they were to be pinched—pinched in the bum, that is. So, Poppy emphasized her extravagant Oak Apple costume on the holiday.

“I feel like King Charles II, almost like when he hid in an oak tree to escape enemy soldiers. Don’t you?” Poppy said.

Her classmates, Alastair Glover, Duncan MacGregor, and Fergus Laird sat in front of her at lunch with other students. Despite their oak apple costumes with flower and oak-leaf decorated sticks, none of the boys said anything to her. She wanted to pinch them in the bum for their bad attitudes. By now, each of them should’ve kissed her more than once. 

While waiting for her prince to kiss her, she imagined herself in the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Sleeping Beauty, which she often enjoyed as a bedtime story. She read the passages to herself, trying to be patient, dreaming that she was Little Briar Rose about to be kissed. Finishing her lunch, Poppy was sure she was in love with each of the three adorable boys in her class.

“I’ve got to come up with a plan,” Poppy said, pinching each of them in the bum on the way to throw out her trash.

The large Oak Tree outside the Kensington Park Garden Primary School was about to help her be kissed, she thought.

“Ouch!”  the boys said as she pinched their bums. “Don’t pinch us, Poppy! We’re wearing our apple costumes!” 

“The Heart of Oak Friendly Society Parade on Sheep Street starts at three o’clock,” the year six teacher Miss Bartles said.

“Finish your lunches, so we can decorate Maypoles with oak boughs and flowers for the parade,” the teacher said.

Then the entire year six class lined up and walked back to their classroom with paper apples hanging from the ceiling. 

Before lunch, Miss Bartles hung a large wreath on the classroom door with staves decorated with wooden oak apples. 

During the annual Heart of Oak Friendly Society Parade, people danced around the Maypoles, wearing oak leaves.

“This year, I’m going to sneak up the Oak Tree, and drop apples on Alastair, Duncan, and Fergus,” Poppy whispered. 

More determined than ever, she remembered reading Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, knowing that love is a wonderful thing. So, when no one was looking, she stuffed her dress pockets and backpack with apples from the lunchtime display.

“If I hit the boys in the head, they will surely pass out, and I can run and kiss them before they wake up. If one of them wakes up when I’m kissing him, it will be true love, and everyone will know it. It has to be why King Charles II had Oak Apple Day in the first place. I hate wearing this apple around my neck. What a headache! An apple is not a necklace.”

In previous years, Poppy’s classmates gathered oak twigs with oak apples on them and tried to sell them to parade-goers. The children jeered at anyone who refused to buy the oak twigs, chanting, and singing in rhymes at them. 

She said: “This is almost like when Mr. Williams refused to buy my oak twig. So, I bopped him in the head with it!”

At half past two, when Poppy had finished making her Maypole, she slipped out of the classroom to the bathroom. 

“Please Miss Bartles, I need to go to the loo,” Poppy said, carrying her backpack. “I must tinkle in the toilet!”

“Mind your manners, Poppy!” Miss Bartles said. “Hurry along now . . . and be back in five minutes.”

“Yes, indeed,” Poppy said, running down the hall to the side door, and then to the nearby Oak Tree after visiting the loo. She quickly climbed up the Oak Tree, hoping that Miss Bartles wouldn’t notice that she went missing. 

After positioning herself on a sturdy tree branch over Sheep Street, she was sure she had good aim at any of the boys. 

“I should have thought of this plan last year,” Poppy said, eyeing the school’s front door and biting into an apple. 

Then, one by one, her classmates walked out in a single file line with their Maypoles with oak boughs and flowers. 

Each of the students wore leaves, and they looked so festive that Poppy almost forgot her plan to drop the apples. 

“Oh, there’s Alastair,” she said, dropping the first apple and hitting his shoulder. The apple splattered on the sidewalk.

“What’s that? A bird’s egg?” Alastair said, looking up in the tree. Poppy hid behind the flowered branches on the Oak Tree. 

“I missed!” Poppy whispered. “I should’ve practiced my aim. Well, there’s Duncan,” she said, dropping another apple.

This time, the apple hit Duncan in the head, but it wasn’t strong enough to knock him out, or so it seemed. 

“Ouch! Who is dropping the apples from the Oak Tree?” Duncan said. “I’m going to have a headache all night long!”

“Fergus!” Poppy whispered. She threw the apple so hard that it smacked him to the ground in a swoop.

“True love!” Poppy said, climbing down the Oak Tree, with apples from her pockets and backpack falling on everyone. 

By the time she reached the sidewalk, half of her class had been bopped with apples in the head, even Miss Bartles. 

“Poppy! What has gotten into you? We are trying to have a celebration!” Miss Bartles said, helping the bruised students.

“You’re mine!” Poppy said to Fergus, grabbing him and kissing him. With his eyes still shut, he did not respond. 

A few moments later, Fergus opened his eyes, looking so shocked and confused that he could hardly breathe. 

“Aaaah!” Fergus yelled moments later. He got up off the sidewalk and ran down the parade route as fast as he could. 

“Wait!” Poppy said, running after him, throwing apples from the sidewalk at his head with good aim.

After a few minutes, Fergus gave up, and Poppy made Oak Apple Day history, when Fergus stopped running and kissed Poppy. He figured kissing her was easier than getting bopped in the head with flying apples, and so the story goes. 


Copyright 2019 Jennifer Waters

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