“Oh, it’s a long, long, time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September…. These few precious days, I spend with you….” A wonderful old song that catches the magic of the season on these early, shorter, golden, days. Maybe it’s that faithful promise of fall; suddenly every corner in our inch of the world seems busy. The lazy days of summer are reluctantly disappearing here in the Carolinas, and slowly, despite the lingering heat, the excitement and beauty of fall is gently sliding back into our lives.
Winter can wait.
Yesterday, for instance, perhaps it was nothing more than warm streaks of sunlight shadow dancing on the weather vane in the back yard. Or was it that roadside stand, madly red with apple displays; or that rusty sign on a rural grocery store promising: ‘real sweet, sweet potatoes;’ and Halloween pumpkins, scattered like pots of gold, beside a farm house. Devilish looking scarecrows; and mums, colored with nature’s stunning brush strokes. Anyway, it was another of those rare days that blesses us with hours of gifts that are, “so fine.”
From the time I pulled out of the driveway my spirits were soaring. There were bits and pieces of some old haunting melody buried in my mind, that I had dug out from a jumble of memories that had stayed with me throughout the day.
What is it about this changing of the guard, this fall, this breathtaking beauty? It seems there is always that unexpected wistfulness guarding our treasured moments in our collected memories.. A sudden quickening of the pulses, rich days, never quite long enough to fill all the needs of the soul. Fall beckons and entices us to “shake a leg.”
Occasionally though, we must all slow down, if only for sunsets and streams. God’s little extras; Water, soother of the soul, Sunsets, heaven’s curtains closing on yet another blessed day of life. What a mixed bag of pleasures and sorrows our lives sometimes are.
I remember visiting relatives in the Piedmont area one-such-long-ago Indian summer of my youth. They lived in one of those sturdy little towns that had first attained prosperity through tobacco and had clung to it, with a mix of light industry and easy proximity to granddaddy, “Raleigh.”
It was hot. North Carolina hot. Muggy. A day begging for water. The adults moved slowly and lazily, handkerchiefs mopping sweaty brows; as they stretched out on the old porch that wrapped around the house like ice cream cones. Glasses of sweet tea were offered to cool parched spirits. Overhead fans swirled softly, suggesting brief whiffs of country air; gently teasing dated hairdos. But smiling they sat, enjoying a family joke here or there. This suited the grownups to a tee; but the children now, that was another story, they were mighty bored indeed.
Ah, but surprise; seems there was a pond! It was out in the country about a mile, as the crow flies, on an old family farm that had grown finally, to love only children and animals. On five acres there was cool, sweet, child-proof water. We squeezed in bathing suits, faded and shrunk from countless summer escapades; either that, or so baggy they hung like sacks around our skinny legs. No matter. Somebody had packed a bag full of peanut-butter and jellies, and like a rag-tag army, we headed for the pond.
We ate. We watched the moon and evening stars until bugs and general weariness grabbed and dragged us out of our watery perches. Reluctantly, we headed back. It had been a fine day. Not a care in the world. No one had even bothered to call us home. Ah, we had a glimpse of those delicious early Fall -days. Had the angels sang, we surely would have heard .
A little water like an Indian summer goes a long way in the south. For all the big rivers, and the miles and miles of salt-water coast, sometimes I think Southerners feel more romance for those little farm ponds of their youth. It was what they’d known after all. Where they’d gone skinny-dipping, maybe even had their ‘first date.’ Maybe the same place they’d learned to swear, dip snuff, and try a little “rabbit tobacco.”
I remember we felt wild and free, so grownup that summer. Left alone by tired parents, to our own devices, we explored and discovered something more of life. Little did we realize that our particular freedom already symbolized the ending of an era, and our adventurous spirits were already slipping further and further away from the touch of our parent’s hands.
Of course they knew we were almost ready to fly. Parents cast long shadows. They watched from the sidelines and gave us the chance to grow and find our own way home. And sometimes, somehow we always did.
So life flows on, a little too quickly it seems, passing this gift of living, these ponds and sunsets, these happy moments, from one generation to the next. And memories of all these special times, will gently shape, and gently add, another layer of gold to our lives.
Micki Cottle was a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent who occassionally regales readers with her wit and charm. She is also a member of the Sampson County Historical Society.