One of our trees begins to show its color so much earlier than the others. At first, we thought it was just a fluke that year, but each year it holds true to being the first to turn out its glory. Autumn is such a time for contemplation, and though it is still Summer, the weather here in the Ohio River Valley suggests otherwise. I have been under the weather myself the past month or so and my type pad has been quiet. I have not been in my kitchen nearly as much as usual, nor out in the garden. The past month has been one of gathering my children around me and enjoying time in our haven together. More on this later...
The changing leaves has me thinking almost daily about an event from my childhood. I cannot put the memory into exact context, and wonder at times if the memory is not a patchwork of many days that have lodged somewhere in the deep recess of my mind. We are no more than seven or perhaps eight, and there are two friends with me when we leave my house and trudge off through the backyard of my next door neighbour. Our destination is delivering something, maybe items from a school fundraiser, to the next neighborhood over. My two friends are just along for the stroll as they are not in my class. The neighboring yard is that of one of my best friends who is walking with me. There is the faint scent of leaves burning in the air, and also that difficult to explain aroma of leaf litter and mold that speaks to your senses about the beauty of nature. Our shoes drift through the reds, yellows, and browns of leaves newly fallen and their crunch is a sound that takes me back to school days even today. We hug the back corner of my friends log cabin home and come into our secret place. A place of packed earth floor and looping overhead trees, perhaps no larger than some one's living room but endlessly decorated with nooks and crannies that we could get lost for hours at a time in play. At night, this secret place was a spot you could just vanish into, your night tag friends passing within inches and never seeing you. But today we pass through and pop out into the next neighbor's back yard and make the short trek along the evergreens to the street of the next neighborhood. The two houses we are walking behind have a certain cottage feel and I always enjoyed looking at them. Both of our neighborhoods were true circles with perhaps forty or fifty houses around them. The people of these circles loved their gardens and in Autumn the remnants made for a beautiful setting. The house we are going to first is only a few houses down the circle. We walk up the drive which in memory is newly blacktopped, the smell of tar for some reason was quite pleasant. There is an entry porch with a rock formed wall to the right and a garden setting visible but private from the road to our left. The porch is inviting and I see slate tiles of many shades of gray underfoot. A dim light is on overhead as the dusk is coming earlier each day now. We ring the bell which goes resounding into the depths of the house. Footsteps come to the door and it is a lady in her midlife, not unlike most of our teachers at school. A warm smile and she bids us into the entry way through a wooden door and says she'll be right back after she retrieves her pocket book. The three of us say nothing- we are taking it in. The house is dark, not for lack of light, but in decoration, and it is the first time I realize dark can mean very comfortable. The smell of wood wax is in the air along with something coming from the kitchen which we can see from where we are standing. The kitchen has a lot of brick in which a huge range oven is encased and the casserole hidden somewhere inside. I notice a large collection of cookbooks and instantly recognize this woman as someone my Mother would like immensely. I associate rose hips and cloves and dried flowers with this brief visit, and copper pots, though I cannot guarantee any were there at all. The woman comes back with a check and we leave her the bag of goodies and promise to come back at Halloween. We left oddly satisfied walking along with a sense of the season. I remember nothing of the rest of those deliveries nor the homes we went to.
Why over thirty years later this visit seems lodged in my memory I have not the slightest idea. I recognize on some level that I found a kindred spirit to my own Mother who created a sense of home that has stayed with me. I also think this home in the next neighborhood over, in some ways, reminded me so much of my Mother's Aunt Florence's home in Zionsville, Indiana. This home had a large influence on both my Mother and myself, though I never realized it until much later in life. This visit has played about my mind the past month or so with odd frequency and I wonder if my friends remember this day the way that I do- or even remember it at all. What I know is that it has somehow played a role in my subconscious... and it is the memory which has made Autumn my favorite season of all.