This past Sunday my husband surprised me with a lovely day trip that began with a picnic in the park after church. Leaf Peeping season is upon us, and Steve knows how much I enjoy each new season, how much I enjoy looking at the beauty each season brings us, and how creatively charged I can get when surrounded by all that beauty. So, he planned an excellent Leaf Peeping Adventure.
As we traveled from one county to the next, across three state borders, and through one forest, my mind drifted to one particular Saturday a couple Octobers ago . . .
I was making the long trip home to see my mom and sisters and nieces and nephews and I had 70 some miles to think and to admire God’s artistry during another beautiful fall season. The scenery changed as I went from my country-like suburban setting into my mother’s city suburban setting, but one fact remained the same: seasons change no matter where you are. No matter where you go.
Along Interstate 70 there are wide-open meadows and altering terrain that goes from level to mountainous. There are evergreens and oak trees and maple trees and foliage galore. All of it different from the last. The sun that day poured through the windshield making my windbreaker too heavy for the trip and after I struggled out of it while maintaining my course, I tossed it to the passenger seat and opened the roof of my car. Autumn plays tricks with humans causing us to think a bright sunny day is also a warm one! While the sun was warming me, the air was filled with the pungent aroma of burning wood and I knew somewhere close by someone was heating a house with a good old-fashioned wood-burning stove. I love those stoves. I have a friend who heats her house this way and it always seems to have an inviting, cozy feel to it that gas or electric heat seems to not have.
As the highway gave way to township and county roads I pulled to a stop at an intersection and I looked out the window to see a brother and a sister hard at work raking what seemed like a thousand leaves from the green blanket that was their lawn. I rolled the window down and a smile spread across my lips as I heard the girl squeal as her brother covered her with a pile of leaves. She stood up, covered from head to toe in colorful decorations only nature can provide and I watched her run after him with an armful of leaves. They laughed, making a chore into a game and I began to feel a little homesick for the days when I went to visit my cousin’s house and we would rake their massive front lawn and build a house with leaves. Not a structure of any sort, just the outline of rooms we pretended had walls and doors and windows. Ultimately though, the carefully laid “foundation” ended up in a huge mound with several giggling children beneath it.
The light changed at the intersection but the feeling of nostalgia lingered with me in the front seat of my car and I was thoughtful as I continued my drive. Childhood really is a gift. It’s a gift parents give by having children. It’s a gift children get from God and all too many times we are in such a hurry to grow up – some of us are given no choice and some of us just feel the need to be independent. By the time I turned onto my mom’s street I was feeling a sort of cross between happiness and a deep sadness for the childhood I left behind. I pulled into her drive and honked my horn four times like I always do and the front door opened and out came my two youngest nieces, one of my nephews, and the family dog. Hugs, kisses, and laughter were exchanged and a small breeze rustled the leaves, taking with it my sadness and leaving me in the warmth of the love of my family.
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The sound of Steve’s voice brought me out of the past and back to the front seat of the car.
“Look at the peach-colored leaves on that copse of tress,” Steve said.
I looked where he pointed, gave his hand a squeeze, and blinked back an urge to cry. I was right where I wanted to be–on a lovely trip with the one I love–but the past seemed to haunt me for just a wee bit of time that day.
Have you ever had one of those days? Ones where you think so much about the past that it seems to become rooted in the present? It’s good to recall memories. They keep us young. They enable us to recall simpler, easier times. Sometimes they are painful and better left in the past. The point is: they make us stronger. I hope you have your own recollections of autumns past and I hope there are loved ones at the end that keep you firmly planted in the here-and-now.