Friday, 8 November 2013

Of Autumn and Innocence

I'm joining in with  Kate, Janine, Kristi  and Stephanie for the third time today for the Finish the Sentence Blog Hop, where the prompt this time is "When I was a little kid, I thought ...." Ah, there are so many ways I could finish that sentence, but I think I will treat you to just one little trip down memory lane ...


When I was a little kid, I thought that Autumn leaves were the most beautiful creation in the whole world.

At the age of four, I found a leaf in the garden, gave to it my mum and said "I found this for you". She turned it over in her hand, held it up to the light and said "It's beautiful, thank you so much. I'm going to keep it in a special place in my desk".

I remember feeling indescribably happy that I had been able to give her something that she treasured so much. After that, I spent the entire Autumn obsessed with leaves: every single time I saw a beautiful one (which was frequently, considering the time of year) I felt an uncontrollable urge to pick it up and give it to her. I wanted to relive that feeling of making her so happy over and over again.

Very quickly, she accumulated a collection of leaves in her desk that was so enormous that it had to be transferred to the top of her wardrobe, but still I kept collecting and collecting.

One day, my kindergarten teacher found me crying on the steps of the kindergarten house. "What's the matter, Elizabeth?" she asked me kindly. "My back hurts from picking up so many leaves", I answered between sobs. She spoke to my mum when she came to pick me up at the end of the day and between them they agreed that I needed a little break from kindy because, rather than playing with the other kids during lunch break, I spent all my time alone, lost in my own little world and my leaf-finding treasure hunt.

So instead of going to kindy, I stayed home with my mum for several weeks. At the age of four, she was still my entire world; more precious and more beautiful to me than any Autumn leaf could ever be. She would read to me aloud for hours, bake biscuits with me, play dolls houses with me and take me for little walks through our garden, our half acre of paradise.

The days rolled into each other and Autumn turned to Winter until one day, there were no more beautiful leaves left to collect. I went back to kindy. I started to play with the other kids. The leaves in the top of my mum's wardrobe eventually turned brown. Eventually, she said to me: "Elizabeth, the leaves have all dried up now. Do you think it would be alright if we put them in the bin now? There will be more lovely ones next year." I looked at them then and realised that their beauty had passed. I had thought that they would stay beautiful forever. I agreed that it would be okay to throw them out. I've never forgotten though that she asked for my permission before she did so.

Twenty-six times, Autumn has come and passed since then and although I have never collected leaves again with the same intensity, it has always been my favourite of all the seasons. Every once in a while, I see a particularly beautiful leaf and I pick it up, turn it over in my hand, hold it up to the light, and remember that despite all the challenges life has given me, how blessed I was to to grow up with a mother who loved me so much.

Years later, my mum told me a story. She was forty-one years old when I was born. That's not so unusual these days, but when she had her first child, at the age of twenty-seven, medical staff told her openly that that was "very late in life for a first pregnancy". Although some people obviously passed judgement at her decision to carry a baby in her forties, she told me there was one conversation that healed the sting of all the others.

She had gone to church one morning and after mass, she starting talking to the parish priest. He was a formidable Irishman in his late eighties at the time; originally a policeman, way over six foot tall and enormously respected throughout the community.

My mother told him that she was expecting a baby, a little surprise baby considering her age.

He smiled and placed his hand gently on her arm.

"How wonderful", he said. "It will be the child of your Autumn".


Finish the Sentence Friday