You and I have always loved the last weeks of October. In autumn the trees changed from green to brilliant red and orange, bright yellow and gold. When they were at the peak of their change, we pressed my favorite leaves between books. They became the “accents” in almost every room, spread out on tables and counters and bookshelves until they crumbled apart.
When I was a child, we raked the leaves into huge piles at the curb,jumped into the center, and then raked them back into piles. On chilly evenings, all over the neighborhood the children watched in wide-eyed wonder while adults monitored the crackling, burning leaves. Sunday evenings at our house meant eating popcorn and sliced apples while we watched Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
Things change. Children grow up, move away, and many have their own children and grandchildren now. Spouses and friends are gone, and houses hold new families. The October lawns are still covered in rustling colors, but leaf burning is banned. And on crisp fall evenings you no longer sit at the picture window, a notebook open on your lap as you pen poems and stories about children jumping in leaves and animals preparing for winter. Your home now is a cozy apartment on the second floor of Presbyterian Village, and your failing memory and poor vision no longer inspire writing ideas.
So during this visit, as the sky darkened outside we turned on all the lights in your living room. You snuggled in your recliner, covered with the fluffy bright green blanket. We shared microwave popcorn and orange slices. I flipped through some of your light verse poetry, reading the titles aloud until you seemed to choose the one titled “Homes.”
The milk cow sleeps in the barn,
A house is home for folks.
The little birds sleep in a nest in a tree;
In the pond the bull-frog croaks.
The milk cow wouldn’t like my bed,
And I couldn’t sleep in a nest.
The bull-frog doesn’t like the barn.
Each one thinks his home is the best.
Mom, that’s your charming poem, “Homes.” You didn’t recognize it as something you had written. As I reread it, you closed your eyes and took a nap. I kept reading, just in case…
Things change, but memories remain, passed from mother to daughter to grandchildren to great-grandchildren. It’s okay if you forget, Mom. I’ll remember for you, and pass the memories on. I promise.