It was the perfect day.
The temperature hummed at a pleasant 70 degrees. The leaves, as I drove along the winding hills and curves of our neighborhood, taking my son to the BMV to get his first license plate, were the color of fire.
Autumn is a slow burn. It takes its time, like a man just before the winter of life, shuffling a little, making it last to the last drop. A fire turns to ash so quickly. But these leaves will slowly drop, turn brown and curling, be covered in snowflakes, their strength hidden for awhile and then produce life for the young things of spring. And I realize . . . could we ask for anything more? I stare at the molten gold, the burnished orange and, my favorite, the brilliant reds from behind my cool, white-framed sunglasses – a summertime indulgence - I find I'm thankful to be alive.
"Do you see it?" I ask my seventeen-year-old who seems to have all the answers . . . who has had answers for everything since he was two. "Do you see the leaves?"
He glances up from his I-Pod.
And for a moment, I can see that he does.
I smile and take the next turn.
Later, I get back from a book signing to find a neighbor in need. She has lived across the street from me for years, been married and raised her children there for years . . . now standing on my front step telling me about another woman taking her place in the heart of her husband . . . and all I can think is, how does this happen? Thirty years lost in a new, younger woman’s eyes.
It makes me afraid. Afraid to count myself among the inoculated, the safe, the sure. Life is anything but sure.
I spent the rest of that brilliant day helping pack and load and unload into an apartment. I passed those same leaves and while they were still brilliant, my tears now blurred the color making it a washed out world. How many times had I stood in her kitchen talking and laughing . . . but today, I watched as she pulled out the house key from her pocket and left it on the counter saying, “Goodbye, my kitchen,” my home, my life as I’ve know it. She admonished me to be strong when I’d cried then – yes, she told me to be strong. But alone in my car with her potted plants swaying in my rear-view mirror, I couldn’t be strong. I could only cry and try, to drive.
I can still see her face. See her anger and her brightness at the same time. See her determination and her brokenness. See her, my friend.
I will call her. I will visit her new home. I will invite her over and we will, together, shield our eyes from the foreign car in her driveway . . . but I pray . . . dear God, I hope, she won’t be robbed of Your greatness, Your color, Your autumn extravagant show. Cause, sometimes, some days, it’s all we have.
The perfect day.
Monday, October 22, 2007
It was the perfect day.