Autumn – Trust Fall
Autumn, Fall, Indian summer, harvest season … No matter what you call it, this season conjures all sorts of memories for each of us. Most people think of autumn and immediately are filled with thoughts of cooler weather and the impending winter, but when I think of this season I think of warmth —- the warmth of a fire crackling in the evening, the warmth in the brilliant hues of foliage, the warmth of snuggling with loved ones and settling in — slowing down from the quick pace as the cold outside sets in and the warmth of the heart, and the hearth, and the house take over.
So many of my best memories are tied to this season – making these beautiful vignettes — windows to a past time of simplicity and childhood bliss.
Days grow shorter, weather turns colder, and memories fall upon me like the leaves of the trees – blanketing me in the comfort and serenity of days long past.
and very citified compared to our tar-and-chipped road in the little village of Elton. I watched out the window, leaning on the big metal radiator — oh how I LOVED snuggling up to the radiators at their house –
letting the heat melt into me like dipping my whole self in parafin wax — watching as the large heavy rain drops landed on the autumn leaves, making them bow beneath the
weight before giving in, no longer able to bear it – letting go as the water fell to settle on their leafen brothers that had already let go to their earthly rest.
After longingly watching the rain, Aunt Grace told me I could walk over to see if the neighbor, Gabby, could come play with me. She was a bit older than me, and I lit up with excitement. Aunt Grace helped me don my yellow raincoat and an umbrella. Looking like the Morton salt girl, I headed out the front door to the large porch that span the entire front of their home, down the wooden slate-blue stairs, and onto the waiting stone walkway to the sidewalk.
We didn’t have sidewalks at our house, just grass and then the gravel/tar-and chip road, so the water pooling in puddles was more than my young heart could contain. I knew I shouldn’t go near them – I was wearing my only pair of worn Gee Bee sneakers, not rain boots – but like a siren in the sea, the enchanting call of those luscious puddles summoned me with a song I could not resist.
Jumping with both feet, I plunged into the first puddle with great delight. The chilly water splashed all the way up my red polyester pant legs to my knees (you’ve got to remember it was the 1970’s – polyester pants were the thing back then —- we all dressed like the Brady Bunch kids). Clueless to my surroundings but solely focused on the endless sidewalk of countless puddles before me, I jumped with splendor and gusto, like a little yellow frog from lily pad to lily pad – a joy that can only be known by a child full of innocence and naivete.
When I finally looked up, I had walked farther down Christine Court than I had ever been, even with a grown up. The only way that I wasn’t lost was I had not turned right or left – I was still thankfully on Christine Court. The immense joy felt just a moment earlier was replaced by absolute terror and dread. I quickly turned around and headed back. But, my rapid pace was soon replaced with the realization that I did not do as I was told – “walk straight to Gabby’s and back” – but followed a path of glorious puddles and was now soaked to the bone from my thighs down. I remember slowing down my steps to little tiny peep steps like in the game “Mother, May I”. I had never misbehaved at Aunt Grace’s and Uncle Gus’s before – at least not to this level and not without my parents there. I began having an entire conversation with myself:
How much trouble would I be in? … alot.
Maybe I just shouldn’t go back? … that won’t work, they’ll go looking for me and be even madder.
Could I walk home? … no silly. It takes too long to get here by car – it would take weeks on foot.
Maybe they won’t notice if I just sneak in the door and go upstairs or somewhere by myself … that might work.
With a plan in hand, Gabby long forgotten and replaced by the dread of going inside, the stone steps from the sidewalk to the yard were looming large in front of me leading back to Aunt
Grace and Uncle Gus’s porch. Heavy with water and fear, I opened the front door that led directly into the living room and quickly turned my back to the right corner where the coat closet was thinking, “if I can just keep them from seeing the front of my pants .. maybe, just maybe I can stay out of trouble.”
That is what happens in life too isn’t it? We start out on our path with the best of intentions, knowing what it is we are supposed to do. Yet – something in the world around us causes a distraction – leads us astray from where we were headed in the first place. Just like this walk when I was five or so, sometimes we are lucky enough to realize we went off course before too much damage has been done. We are a bit soaked by our error, but it will dry and serve as a reminder our whole walk back that we want to stay the course. We have to trust in something bigger than ourselves that in the end everything will come together for good.
I don’t remember how the whole scenario ended, but I seem to vaguely remember a furrowed brow from Uncle Gus (someone had to be the stern one), a toweling off from Aunt Grace while she lay my wet polyester pants on the metal radiator to dry, and I am sure they forgave me as I am here to tell about it, and stayed with them again after that. Aunt Grace most likely gave me a warm cup of tea in my favorite white mug with the nesting fruit design, served on a tray with little cubes of sugar and a me-size cream dispenser. The tea, the steam radiator, and the love of Uncle Gus and Aunt Grace once again filling me with warmth from head to toe.
From this side of the story, I still find a calming peace at such beautiful glimpses of growing up in western Pennsylvania in the 1970’s. Even writing this now, I get the “Pooh and the blustery day” comfort of my youth. My hope is that my own children will be able to look back on their own childhood memories when they are 50-something and experience the same soul-warming hygge.