87.Grey clouds behind the gold-kissed hickories…


Grey clouds sprawled across the morning sky as I came to a stop at the top of my hill. Hickories gushed pale gold leaves. Maples shed orange laquer drops of blood. The oaks stubbornly held their ruddy/green leaves. Classical music played low on my car radio–Brahms, I think. It all fit together along with the cold rain drops on my windshield. Change is coming briskly from over the western mountain range of the Cumberland Valley where I live. The low sun is crowded out and grows weaker by the day, demoted to a spectator till late March. Halloween will come next week; so I guess this is the prelude to the night of the dead and the release of burdened souls; or else another election if there is a difference.

Thinking back to past Halloweens I have a favorite memory of walking with my oldest daughter Erin in her princess costume. My wife was home with our second daughter Grace, who would have been an infant at the time; Erin would have been six. As we crossed a corner yard in the dark, I asked Erin where she thought she’d be in the future when she was an adult. “Where will you live, Honey?” In her very serious six year old voice she replied, “In a nursing home”.

I laughed at the sober absurdity of my too serious daughter. I asked her, “Why a nursing home?”  She responded, “Because Mommy works in a nursing home”. And this was true and logical…just funny given the context. And I suppose her sobriety was not funny at all. She had always been the serious observer of life and still is.

I am eating the only pear that our pear tree produced– a crisp and delicious golden Barlett. It reminds me that when Erin was an infant, my wife and I walked with her in an old baby buggy with big rubber tires. We were so poor at that time that we picked up the pears that had fallen from the tree on the grounds of Scotland School for Veterans Children. We put them in the buggy next to our infant daughter whose wise eyes took in everything. Later my wife canned them or made pear and applesauce for us to supplement our meager groceries. I wonder what baby Erin made of cold pears rolling next to her little body.

We had a dog named CoCo back then. He was an affectionate sheltie collie mix. He had this habit of getting excited and jumping around on his back legs, bouncing like a miniature kangaroo. This was cute except that we lived on the second floor apartment with a 22 foot drop from our back porch. (Yes, I got out the tape measure to confirm the distance.) One day as we were bringing up groceries from our classic 1970 Volkswagen squareback, Coco began his tap dancing and danced right off the porch. When he hit the concrete pad below, his hip socket blew out and he became lame. Somehow he carried on with only an occasional slip of his hip bone for a couple more years. He was run over by three different cars before he cashed out his dog chips and went to dog heaven.  It was a sad day.

Today is not a sad one; it can’t be. I am freed up to wander through my memory banks picking up pears and pearls of great value, a precious moment with my precious daughter, and a farewell to a good dog. Fall has always exerted magic on my moods, usually with negative results. Not today. Life may be a darker oil painting, a Corot maybe, but it’s still a masterpiece.

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