Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Fields of Gold
At the end of the summer, I began to worry that I had run out of stories for you but autumn is an endless field of gold, and now that the weather has turned a corner, I am filled with nostalgia - images and spirits haunt me anew. I shouldn’t be surprised – autumnal renderings always find me as soon as the air turns apple-picking crisp and billowing clouds sail quickly across the sky before me. Once the swallows begin their eerie wire to wire dance at dusk, I am lost once more to sweet yesterday.
I have wistful fall memories of being a young mother and happy school memories. But fall recollections always begin and end with my mother. I see her now in her wool plaid Bermuda shorts, white peter-pan shirt, navy knee sox and penny loafers. She grabs a sweater from the back of the closet and runs out of the house to make a quick dash to the corner store for something suddenly and urgently necessary for Sunday’s roast. When she turns the key of the station wagon, she sees that a co-pilot has slipped in beside her. She smiles. “Sneaky”, she says.
Now she’s in a blue 60’s patterned shirtdress, her light brown hair shorn and windblown, her legs tucked under her in worn summer espadrilles, the ones she wore on the sharply pebbled beach in Scituate on our summer vacation. She’s waiting on the front porch steps for her litter to return from the first day of school. After a touch, a kiss, a smile, we bound into the kitchen for cupcakes. If one of us is lucky enough to think of it, there’s still a beater or two in the sink dripping with batter.
I see her this time in cropped sage pants, white blouse, a grey Shetland sweater with a grosgrain ribbon sewn along its placket. She’s running in front of me in a race to retrieve the mail but soon she stops short and lets her competitor win. The wind nips at our faces and the scent of burning leaves fills the air. She tucks my corduroy jacket under my chin. I am wearing a piece of her costume jewelry, a sliver of a gold bangle and soon I will lose it jumping in a pile of leaves. When I confess, she’s talking on the pink wall phone, leaning against the kitchen door jamb while dinner cooks in two saucepans on the stove. She’s not angry and holds the phone away from her ear long enough to kiss the top of my head. I skip off down the hall to read before supper.
It’s Halloween and I’m crying. I don’t want to be a monster - I want to be a princess. “How about an Indian Princess?”, she asks. Within minutes, feathers are plucked from a brother's long dead head dress, an old skirt becomes a sack dress, a brown tie becomes a sash. My tears dry just in time for war paint that comes from a weathered basket hidden on the top shelf of the linen closet. In the end, I decide that no princess should be without mascara from a cake and Cherries in the Snow.
Tonight is parent teacher night and a half moon is hanging from a black sky. The brass lamp above the kitchen table is dim as we finish our soup. She tells us to be good as she reaches for the car keys from the hook by the door. She’s in her chic cranberry boucle suit and brown alligator pumps with the alarmingly pointed toes. She tugs off a long navy cotton glove to wipe a smudge from a face. “I hope I get good reports tonight”, she warns. The scent of Arpège wafts behind her as she shuts the door. At breakfast, she tells all, and we beam before her from the compliments. And soon, just beyond the kitchen window, the fields beside our house will turn to gold in the early morning fall sun.
Photo Credit: My own. My mother, my twin and I.