Friday, September 28, 2012

Bag of Candy

Fall as experienced lately is more an extension of summer than an outright season of its own.

Our September continues the pattern. Mild temperatures and dry sunny conditions make us feel Kansas hitched a ride north.

Canada is the direction we look as days shorten. Our cool air comes from there. 

While a zonal flow from the Pacific persists we tend to forget this fact, to be pulled up abruptly at the first chilly outbreak.

Putting our boat into storage, which has just been done, is our particular rite of passage into fall.

It doesn’t matter that summer hangs on, or the lakes still sparkle and the fish are probably at their fighting best. Common sense forewarns that October is known to bring snow showers.

Before all this happens, as it’s bound to do in its own good time, we took a short color trip north.

Color season can be brief. Fortunately in our state it comes in waves starting in the north and working southward.

Perhaps particularly this year of so little rain, with trees protecting their root systems, and many branches looking dusty with faded color, we wondered if the seasonal display would amount to much.

The drive was pleasant in its own right but the dominance of color which we found made it even more so.

We enjoyed the yellows and reds of the hills along with the various shadings of green. The forests were like tapestries woven through with bright yarns and hung side by side for maximum effect. 

Lake Superior was very blue which is a treat because the big lake wears many moods and not all of them are sunny.

We remembered pictures on TV of the muddy stain far out into the lake after the damaging June rain at Duluth. It heartens one to see that renewal happens.

A constant presence of billboards along the highway promote historic Ft. William over the border in Ontario.

"Original road trip," "Original GPS" (showing a guide) and "Original Five Star Hotel" (teepee under starry skies) are some of the signs. The signs are catchy. Clever marketing, we agreed.

Afterwards, as the trip was summed up to friends, the Original Road Trip theme played in my mind.

It caused me to consider early road trips made by our family. We could have been poster children for these signs along I-35 and Highway 61.

I was two on my first North Shore trip. The roads wouldn’t have been smooth as now. 

There was little in the way of the comfortable lodging we currently seek out. We'd have been the ones with five star lodging, camping out under the spangled night skies.

This isn’t the trip that stands out since I can’t remember it anyway. The trip that comes to mind, instead, is a trip to Missouri. It was spring and we were driving to my grandma’s funeral.

School was in session but we got excused to attend the funeral. It was different to be in the car, strangely free of all familiar structure, while rural school buses dropped off students and kids our age ran in the schoolyard for recess.

At a gas station in a small Iowa town my brother and I walked in together. We noticed a policeman park his car. He came in the door behind us, trailing us by a few steps which set up a sort of unease in us.

We probably poked each other in the ribs. We were half way expecting (and half way wanting) to be caught up to by this officer in blue.

He’d be very direct. “What are you kids doing in here? Don’t you know you’re supposed to be in school?” In our heads we heard him asking this with firm and almost fatherly concern.

We had our replies ready, hoping his badge wouldn’t shake our courage or resolve.

“We’re going to our grandma’s funeral.” The response would be polite but it’d show him we weren’t a couple truants to round up and take to the principal.

My brother and I either used the bathroom, or made our small snack purchases, or both, fidgeting with coins as we assessed the officer’s interest in us.

Memory fails at this point. Did he speak to us or not? Did we  return to the car relieved we'd passed his scrutiny? Nothing comes to mind.

Remembrance picks up in my dad’s hometown. This part has stayed with me. Family and friends gathering. Tears, laughing and hugs. For the first time, privy to the workings of death, the emotions of mourning gave me much to ponder.

I thought very possibly my brother might remember the gas station scene. He’s older than me and has good recall for some things.

No, he said, in reply to the email, he didn’t have any recollection of being in Iowa with a policeman and a hint of truancy suspicion between him and us.

“How could you?” I wanted to send back. “You were my sidekick. Together, stoutly and boldly, we were going to face the police if he called us out."

I could hardly believe he didn't remember. We were going to prove we weren’t truants but lawfully out on business to attend our grandmother’s funeral. And he'd forgotten this!

Remembering a detail when another has forgotten is like holding a bag of candy. The sack is filled with goodies but the other one, peeking inside, tells you it’s empty.

You’re astonished. You say, “How can this be? I know there’s candy in the bag because look! – holding out the piece in your hand - “here’s my share.”

For now I’ll have to enjoy my share of the memory. There’s a chance my brother will recall it, or some part of it, in the future. I hold to this so as not to be left holding an empty bag.

Maybe he needs to take the road trip we just finished. The Original Road Trip signboards may work on him as they did for me. Vanished memories may rise to the surface.

And maybe he’ll discover that, strangely enough, I simply can’t help him when he looks for confirmation on a recollected road episode.

Original road trips are called this for a reason, which I’m just starting to understand.

They’re original to the way we remember them. Even with the best of memory aids – photos and the like – recall chooses its own course and steers us as it will.  

Ro Giencke – September 28, 2012



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