Bright afternoon sunshine slanted down through colorful fall foliage, blinding me for a moment. I impatiently pulled down the sun visor. Spotting a place to park directly in front of the school door, I swiftly pulled into the space and immediately jumped out of my vehicle. I had a dozen errands to run that afternoon and I intended to get every single one done as quickly as possible.
Next to the school door was a huge planter filled with salvias. The plants were tall and ablaze with vibrant red blossoms. I skidded to a stop. My feeling of being rushed and overburdened fell away, replaced by a sweet childhood memory filled with nostalgia and a sense of timelessness.
Fall was a season of celebration when I was a child. Red, yellow and orange trees were flames of joy, announcing that the bounty of summer was ready to be harvested. Mom and my siblings gathered apples from the orchard and made them into apple sauce and pies. Daddy spent warm days and cool nights in the corn fields making silage so the cows had more than hay to eat during the winter.
There was another reason that fall felt like a time of celebration to me. October was the month that Mom and Daddy had married. Every fall when the trees began to change, I would beg Mom to tell me about their wedding day. Her story always sounded so romantic to me…like a fairy tale.
Mom would start out by saying, “Daddy and I had planned to get married in June at first, but after Pa died in March, we decided to put off the wedding until October 8th. That was Ma and Pa’s wedding anniversary. Our wedding took place in 1934, right in the middle of the depression.”
“On the day of my wedding there was a huge bank of blooming red salvias in Ma’s garden. We planned to hold our reception in our backyard on the farm. When it was time for us to leave for church, my sister Teresa still had pies for the reception in the oven delaying us. When our buggy finally pulled out of the yard, we heard the church bells ringing in Stratford. I felt upset and wondered if Daddy would think that he had been stood-up.”
At this point in Mom’s story, I’d bring out the few wedding pictures they owned. The one I liked most was of them standing in front of Daddy’s old fashioned Ford Model T, which had been trimmed with ribbons and a sign that announced, “MA SAID WE COULD!”
Every year as I grew older, I’d ask different questions. Once I knew what a depression was, I asked, “Did you make your wedding dress?”
Mom said, “I made my own underwear, but being 28 years old, I had managed to save some money. I bought my dress for $21 at a shop on Central Avenue in Marshfield. Daddy provided my bouquet.”
One year I’d asked, “What did you and Daddy do after the reception?”
With a far-away look in her eyes, Mom said, “That evening we had a dance in a neighbor’s barn. All the Wenzel boys played instruments. I remember Daddy and I went out to the car when it was time for me to take off my veil. The air was warm and people were standing around in the yard to cool off from dancing. We visited with them in the dark.”
Horrified at the thought of my parents doing this, but curious, I asked, “Did you and Daddy go on a honeymoon?”
Mom said, “No. Daddy had to milk the cows. That night we returned to the farm where his parents still lived. His Ma had planted a row of red geraniums along the barnyard fence. The next morning I saw them from the kitchen window. They were blooming their heads off.”
By the time I was old enough to realize that frost usually killed our garden and flowerbeds by the first of October, I asked how there could have been so many flowers in bloom on her wedding day. Mom shrugged and said, “That year it never froze until Halloween.”
I smiled at the bright salvias in the school planter and looked around. The trees in the park across the street from the school were beautiful. A cool breeze delivered the earthy scent of drying leaves and fall flowers to my nose. Sunshine warmed the bricks of the school wall. Their radiant heat made me want to stretch out against them and rest. Somehow, the errands that I had felt were so important, no longer gave me a sense of urgency. If I didn’t get around to them today, there was always tomorrow.