The startling turquoise of the sky behind russet and golden leaves made me think of my mother the moment I opened my eyes this morning.
Mom has been gone for over a decade but the colours of autumn always bring the best of memories. These colours were of the favorite dress I ever had. She sewed three dresses like crazy to be done for holiday, one for her, one for me, one for my sister. The material was crisp, medium plaid with azure and turquoise running with rust, bark, golds, maple, wheat colours. I think she thought that plaid the loveliest material ever like I still do.
Autumn means to me, Mom at her finest. She was a vivacious, wild card, yet Martha Stewart-type. A wild card, period. Ask the family. But she was down-to-earth. The farmer heritage ran through-and-through.
She never stopped harvesting. Rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, grapes. The vegetable garden, her gardens. I think an acre with everything consolidated.
The best ever, I think, was Mom stealing walnuts from the farmer. Well, the tree did stand by the road. The walnuts did fall in the middle of the road. They did stay there for days on end after they fell.
But every year we ‘stole’ them. She rushed in with the back of the car right by those walnuts. Hurry Hurry. Out we would jump, us two girls, sometimes our cousins or a friend. We would throw the walnuts into a box in the trunk and she sped us away. Us innocent children fearing arrest.
Did I say she was a wild card? In those moments, she was a light. She was fun.
Every year we dumped walnuts from the farmer’s tree on our driveway. She would drive over and over them, crushing off the shells. Then she wore gloves as she cracked them with a hammer and brick, and we dug the walnut meats out with darning needles. Glass jars of walnuts were on our shelf all winter.
You know what that meant. The first batch of chocolate walnut fudge and buttered popcorn. The beginning of the holiday spree which included her chocolate chip with walnut cookies. And brownies with walnuts and icing. Like I said, a wild Martha Stewart, never-ending of baking and decorating. Those were Mom’s good days.
Turquoise autumn sky. Dad hauling huge pumpkins to the front yard that she had milk-fed. Time to deal with the chickens before winter. Pruning grapes, digging bulbs. She could wear long sleeves again, she hated short sleeves. The last chance to get out and see far away friends before winter snows kept her in the county. Digging old bottles from abandon properties. Filling a farm truck at an auction with visions of improving the lot of junk and doing what, I don’t know.
But mostly, it was all about that dress.
Essayist, writer, novelist.