In early November the girl can see her breath. Clouds of smoke in the crisp air. She wears a red and black checked bomber jacket; owned since university. A cold face. She rubs gloved hands together quickly, presses them to her cheeks.Here she walks a timeless dirt path, a wood of autumn trees surrounded by a fence made of log. Up ahead, a weathered wooden cabin and porch and around it barrels containing apples. Haystacks, once taller than her and scarecrows even taller. A sign announcing where she is.
The leaves on the trees are a reminder, what lives must die. A mosaic of vibrant yellow, rich gold. Shades and washes from scarlet red to lightest orange. Scattered on the ground, gathered into mounds, they turn brown and crunch underfoot.
Inside the cabin, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. There are clusters of Indian corn hanging from walls. Acorn squash, butternut squash. Pomegranates.
Her mother is there, in the distance, an elusive presence scouting for something. The girl sees everything around her and yet, like her mother, everything to her is elusive. The images. The words. Unwilling to say what is really meant.
Her mother digs through crates. There are pumpkins of every size lined up on long wooden benches, stacked in corners and still, the girl wonders if there will be enough left. Throughout her life, she has always wondered about the ‘enoughs’. Once, she wrote a long letter explaining this. She wonders if it ever reached its destination.There are the candy corns. The toffee and chocolate. She owns several pairs of white pillowcases now, like the kind that carried her candy home on Halloween. She owns a full set of dishes, a country cottage and a good mattress. Nail polish the color of candy apples.
People hurry their baskets to the register. She watches as her mother reaches for a quart of cider and then, she is gone. Seeing her just then, finding her in this place makes her wish it could always be autumn. Let the leaves never fall but stay exactly as they are now. Let this picture, this perfect picture painted in a blaze of deepest November linger. But the girl knows. Soon the last of the autumn leaves will fall. Time will move on and the trees will gradually bare themselves, and what were the colors of childhood memory will become darkly etched lines against the winter sky.
Last Of the Autumn Leaves (c) 2023 Deborah McMenamy
All Rights Reserved