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The Calico Pen: Rumors of my maturity are greatly exaggerated

by Carol Holoboff
| November 4, 2009 11:00 PM

This year the season of maturity, or depending on how you look at it, the incipient decline into winter, arrived before the equinox party even got started.

An early, record-breaking freeze set the leaves in their place on the apple tree. Because my days begin without my bifocals, the tree, which is full of gray, curled leaves, looks like the back of the perm-haired senior citizens who sit in front of me in church.

On these fall mornings – darker each day now – I pad into the kitchen in my furry for-fall-slippers. I pull up the window blind and with dismay note the minute changes that confirm what I already know. Winter is riding on heavy clouds and muscling her way across the autumn skies.

In the yard, that for a short time was brilliant with autumn colors, the trees are bare. Their limbs that stretch skyward in a kind of supplication tremble from the threatening bitter winds.

The children's swing flips wildly in the wind and yet the apples that are black and mushy from the freeze cling to their rightful places. There was a time when the now ghastly appearing tree offered juicy red apples and there was another time, long ago, when voices from the swing cried, “higher, Daddy, higher!”

Our weathered birdhouses, once hubs of activity, are now barren, abandoned – true empty nests. My husband ritualistically carries a large pot of bright red geraniums out to the porch each morning and back into the kitchen each evening trying to save the plant, and perhaps him as well, from the inevitable winterkill.

Webster, that word master guy, defines nostalgia as “a wistful, sentimental yearning for the return of a past period, or, an irrecoverable condition.” This morning, as I waited for the wafts of fresh-brewed coffee, I sighed with despair at my sepia-colored world until I watched a squirrel scurrying here and there searching for something to save for an uncertain future.

Perhaps the irrecoverable condition that fuels my nostalgia is my youth, and yet in the depths of my melancholy there is hope. It is said that hope springs eternally and while I do not hope to ever be young again, I do tuck hope in which each tulip and each daffodil bulb that I put to rest in a seemingly lifeless soil. I will leave the swing in its waiting place and save the birdhouses from the ravages of winter so those "empty nests" will be there when spring arrives.    

If maturity is defined as “the termination of a period that an obligation has to run,” then rumors of my maturity are greatly exaggerated. I have obligations! There are fruitcakes to bake, gifts to wrap, cards to write and seasons of uncertainty to prepare for.

(Carol Holoboff is a former Libby resident who now writes her column from Great Falls).