I don’t remember people loving fall so much when I was a kid. Certainly, there were no pumpkin-spice lattes or other fanciful autumn drinks readily available in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or even 90s. I get a little queasy if I think about the mass manufacturing of the fall drink mixes that are distributed in large plastic bags with spouts.
My daughter Bridgy loves fall. She loves all the leaves and decorations. We wish this season lasted as long as summer and winter. Red, orange, and gold leaves for months on end. A warm and glowing sun combined with cooler temps. No bare, bitter, and slicing wind. Oklahoma winters can be so cruel. Here in the Heartland, I’ve learned that in one day, a hard rain can shake all the showy yellow leaves from the branches. I’ve learned to accept and enjoy the wet carpet of leaves in the streets. They’re pushed to the curbs and cars pack them down, and I count the autumns I’ve lived and the number of dead people now on my Facebook friends list.
1970s School Halloween Party Pics
When I was in 3rd grade, my mom was my homeroom mother. She made pumpkin placemats for all my classmates and apple spice cookies on sticks. She piped orange frosting on the front of them to make them look like jack-o’-lanterns.
I miss her. Unfortunately, I never asked her what time of day she was born and this has been bothering me, along with a dozen other questions I didn’t think to ask her when she was alive. To be honest, I don’t like talking about her with anyone, except maybe Juliette. But, there isn’t much we can say. We acknowledge to one another that she is gone and then sit in silence as the cloud of grief passes overhead. It shrouds our faces for a moment, the storm that will never die, and then it is willed away by our weakness. We push it away because it is too much to bear. I had her for a while and am grateful for it all.
Juliette says she didn’t realize how frail she was. There is no pride in this, but I knew she was going to die. It was the doctor’s face that told me. I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria and he was getting a cup of coffee. He glanced at me and I knew then that at any moment her arteries could collapse and her heart would pump for the last time. And, I hated him at that moment for not just telling me, but I was also impressed with him because he knew how alive she was in her mind and how much I loved her. He was human in the sadness he felt for me and the lies of omission he told.
So, I held my breath for a few weeks, waiting to exhale. I knew it was coming and I braced for it as I brace for the brutal February winds. I turned my head against the cold, tucked my chin into my collar, covered my ears from the stabbing blows. My mother was nearly deaf and so for most of my life, there was very little I could say. And, she was so lonely that what little I did share she shared with everyone around her. Gossip is the occupation of the lonely. I mostly forgive her for this.
And, I wish she hadn’t been so lonely. She was very, very good at busying herself with projects. I so admired this about her. I love you, Mom. You see me, now.
Going On Seven Years
Going on seven years, Bridgy and I have been traveling to baton twirling contests across the Heartland. We even went to a contest in Memphis once where she won a giant trophy for throwing an aerial during an artistic twirl. I think she was eight. She loves our road trips and told me recently that she couldn’t wait for the next one. She had so much to tell me! But, last weekend, when we drove to Kansas City for the Fall Spectacular Baton Twirling Championship, she snapped her friends for four hours and listened to music on her AirPods. On all our previous road trips, it was just the two of us, but this time, her squad was along for the ride. At least virtually, anyway. I missed her but am glad she has nice friends. I suggested they come over for a Halloween dinner party. I could buy lychee fruit for eyeball punch and make paper pumpkin placemats! Bridgy replied, “Um, no, too planned.”
I’m a dreamer, what can I say?
After the contest, I got to drive Miss Golden Harvest back home to OKC. Baton twirling titles are the absolute best thing ever. Reminds me of that fabulous scene from Hope Floats when Birdee pulls into her hometown of Smithville, Texas and her daughter Bernice asks her, “Is this where you were cream of corn?” Birdee replies, “Queen of Corn, honey. Three years runnin’. A feat unsurpassed in the history of Smithville. Once upon a time, your mama knew what it meant to shine.”
Once upon a time, your mama knew what it meant to shine.
Last night, Juliette sent me a shining picture of Willow. She’d rolled her hair in sponge rollers and the result was fantastic 1981 trailer park hair. Giant, frizzy and Farrah-like. Willow, nearly three, admired herself in the mirror and said she looked like a lady. In her face, I see all the people I have ever loved.