I’m sitting in the sun on my leaf-littered deck on a glorious autumn afternoon. The baby — wait! Toddler! Sixteen months tomorrow— is sleeping. Waiting for me inside, I have a laundry list as long as my LulaRoe adorned leg. Halloween costumes to complete, supper to start in the crockpot, and laundry to sort and wash. But it’s been nearly a year since I’ve blogged. And it’s October. I have to write.
This year, fall didn’t show up in South Carolina until, well, this past week. Even today the mercury is expected to flirt with 80 degrees again. But all it took was for a couple of cool nights to remind the leaves to change, don gold and crimson, slip from their branches. The hint of vanillin in the air, the caw-cawing flocking from tree to tree, and the lingering cicadas all make me nostalgic and contemplative.
My maternal Grandma died on a crisp fall day when I was nine. As my mom wept inside the house, I kicked around the back yard, popping chestnuts from their needled casings with my feet. I never liked the taste or smell of chestnuts. But oh, the reward of the smooth, deep brown nut, soft with velvet, cool too the touch. The weight of a pocketful or the hem of a shirt heavy with a load was treasure for the taking.
We moved from that house when I was 12, to a home with many more trees, boulders moved by glaciers, wild blackberries, sassafras, and daisies. But no chestnut trees.
My other Grandma had a hazelnut tree in her front yard. Smaller, those nuts were safer to collect: they dressed as princesses in feathered crowns or skirts, not as hedgehogs. The new hazelnuts were velvety too, covered in their own lanugo, different than the chestnuts’. They were lighter in color and mass, but what they lacked in heft and depth of hue, they made up for in quiet clatter when collected. The whisper of a rolling tap inside admitted to being a ready snack.
I don’t remember when the hazelnut tree was cut down. I want to say it was sometime after I left the state to go to college. But part of me thinks that it was a long time prior, that I only think it stood there longer than it did because I wanted it to be there. I wanted to think it still waited for me to collect its gifts. Acknowledging it was gone would mean mourning for a tree.
Here we have Sweetgum trees, a couple of maple, crape myrtle, yellow poplar. There’s an elm somewhere nearby—it’s leaves are in the lawn—but I can’t identify the tree from here. We don’t have any nut trees though. It makes cleaning the lawn easier. Safer to cut the grass or run around barefoot. Less risk of rolling an ankle by stepping on one. But I still wish the boys could know the satisfaction of pockets full of nuts. Nuts that they found by taking the time to look.