Autumn Memories

Brrr…it’s Fall.

Autumn and memories…somehow they go together…so here are a few of mine….

Nut gathering. My dad loved the outdoors and planned activities for us no matter what the season until the summer I turned eight. A massive heart attack that year sharply limited his ability to get out and about for the rest of his life. But before that, every autumn he would take us to Sanders Park in Kenosha County, just about ten miles away from our home. Tucked away among the scarlet maples and rust-brown oaks were amber-leaved hickory, black walnut and butternut trees. Of course the squirrels had been there before us, but we still found a peck full of sweet, wild nuts. Getting to the nutmeats wasn’t easy; as we would help dad hull the nuts, our hands would end up stained brown from the hulls, a color that would stay on our skin for days. Sometimes getting at the meat of Scripture isn’t easy, either, but the “stain” of it colors our souls for eternity.

The smell of leaf fires. It is frowned upon as environmentally unfriendly these days, but one of the incentives my dad used to get us to rake up the fallen box elder and maple leaves in our neighborhood was the promise of a leaf fire. He would clear the last vines out of the garden and set up a fire ring on the bare earth. As dusk settled in, he would set the leaves ablaze. Siblings, cousins, neighbor kids, we would jockey to find just the right spot so we would not be chilled by the cool evening air nor overheated by the flames. There was such contentment in hearing the flames crackle, seeing the sparks dance against the darkening sky, watching the smoke curl upwards and breathing that sweet scent. No wonder God commanded the ancient Israelites to worship him using incense and the book of Revelation describes the prayers of the saints rising as a sweet aroma before the Lord.

Leaf gathering. One of my mom’s favorite things to do with us when we were very young. Our city block was populated mostly by box elders whose leaves would turn a rather drab yellow-brown. So we would walk through the wealthier neighborhoods by the lakefront that sported magnificent maples and gingkos that transformed into brilliant gold and orange and red and saffron treasures. With little brother in the stroller, I would run ahead of her, picking up one leaf after another just to hear her joy as she exclaimed, “Oh, that one is even prettier than the last one!” Once at home, out came the telephone directories (the big ones!) and our finds would be carefully pressed between the pages. I still have a leaf book I made in kindergarten. After 64 years, the colors are faded and the leaves are brittle, but they still call to mind those wonderful walks. God used many ways to help His people remember what He had done for them…setting a rainbow in the sky, piling up stones, inspiring the prophets to write… What kind of record are you keeping to remember what He has done for you?

Harvest moonrise. Our harvest moon this year, the first full moon after the start of autumn, is already on the wane. As a child, watching it emerge from the dark waters of Lake Michigan, especially when it was a late-rising moon, with my family around me, is an image that is priceless. At first, a dull purple-red spot begins to glow, seeming buried beneath the waters on the horizon. Gradually it lightens to red, then orange, as an enormous crescent pulls slowly heavenward and becomes a circle. Rising, the color fades as the moon becomes whiter, purer and a brilliant path, seeming solid enough to walk upon, streams across the water from shore to sky. As we rise from the waters of baptism, of new life in Christ, so we slowly become purer, casting our reflected righteousness out as a beacon to the world.

Getting the house ready for winter. Mom would be on the lookout for the last possible nice weekend of the autumn for fall chores. Our 100 year-old house had six-foot tall, old-fashioned windows with separate screens and storm windows. Bright and early on an otherwise too-pleasant-to-waste-with-chores Saturday, we were all equipped with glass cleaner and old rags. Precariously balanced on wobbly wooden stepladders, Mom and Dad would take down each screen. With one of us younger kids on the inside and one of the older siblings on the outside, we would wash each window, polishing until Mom was satisfied there were no streaks. Then we would race outside to wash both sides of the storm window and Mom and Dad would carefully raise it into position. One bathroom window, three kitchen windows, two dining room windows, two living room windows, and four bedroom windows would take all morning. Finally, Dad would remove the screens doors from the front and back of the house and the storm doors would be hung. All of the screens were carefully stored in the basement until Spring when we would reverse the process. Of course we grumbled. There were so many more fun things we children could be doing on a beautiful Fall day. But without the work, our winters would not have been nearly so cozy. Digging into Scripture, finding time in a busy day to get alone with the Lord, answering those nudges to be “Jesus with skin on” to that hurting neighbor…oh, there are so many more interesting things we could be doing…but without the work, will our winter days be filled with regrets?


By kathykexel

I've been writing from close to the time I learned to read. Fortunately, almost nothing exists from those days. Throughout my working life, I've jotted down bits and pieces here and there. But now that we m retired, I've run out of excuses not to write.

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