Pilgrims, politics, turkey and the first killin’ frost. I think the two in the middle are somewhat similar but let’s just say that passage is the key element to November. As autumn prepares us for the cold, bleak days ahead, harvest, age, even death, are celebrated in the brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves. I’m thankful for a particular lesson where I found that as we all age, we all grow.
After my dad passed away, I left Los Angeles to spend time with my mom in rural Kentucky. I’d often walk past the front porch of her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Sullivan, who I could see planted in her easy chair in the television’s light blue glow.
“You should visit Mrs. Sullivan,” my mother would say. “Why, she baked almost all of the children’s birthday cakes when you were little.“
My mind flashed back to a Brownie Hawkeye photograph of a 4-year-old girl clutching a wooden Fischer-Price wind-up radio, grinning through a beard of butter and sugar, eyes spinning with made-from-scratch frosting.
A daughter is never too old to give her parents an eye-roll. “Oh, Mom,” I shrugged, “She probably won’t remember me.”
In that moment of time travel, I realized my mother seemed so much younger than her neighbor, yet in no time she would be elderly and less active as well. So I decided to drop in on the grand lady that day.
Soon, those visits would become more social than a chore. Sometimes I’d go up to knock on the door and all I could hear was the plus-volume script of “Days of Our Lives.” Once inside (after waving my arms until she saw me), she would gesture to a place on the sofa. But before letting the overstuffed cushions swallow me whole, I would adjust the volume in time to avoid a dramatic confrontation between evil Stefano and heroine Marlena.
Discussions in verbal caps-lock rambled on. I talked about the weather, mostly because it was outside. Mrs. Sullivan was almost never outside. Her legs didn’t work so well anymore and neither did her cane.
Each room was lovingly cluttered with family photos, quilts and afghans, doilies and drapes. A soft prison?
We’d talk about birthday cakes, wedding cakes, holiday cakes, cupcakes and even box-made cakes. Confection was, after all, our root.
I’m aware that someday I might be that elderly lady in the chair, watching life go by much faster than she can think, having more memories than company.
For two years, I worked alongside my mom at her successful day care business, serving lunches, worshiping Mr. Rogers, changing diapers, and reading books with giggling toddlers piled on top of me.
Here’s hoping my own charges drop in on me from time to time and share their lives – maybe help me rake the same piles of red leaves we loved to jump in, as I might not be as strong. I know I will be mortified when they are old enough to sport facial hair, drive a car or take a bride, because, you see, I will still be the age I am today, right?