Thursday, 3 November 2011
Only 10 days ago, as we started some tree work in our garden and as I drove around the highways and byways of Cheshire and Derbyshire going about my business, did I think to myself 'Gosh, how the autumn colours haven't really appeared yet'. And then, suddenly, last week I became aware that there was much that was golden around me. The deep reddish gold of the beeches and the cherries, the startling reds and oranges of the acers, the yellowing of the horse chestnuts and silver birches, the red berries in the rowans were all suddenly warming the world around me even as the cooler winds came and the nights were growing longer.
And so, this week, I now feel that summer has truly said goodbye and those memories of beaches and long evenings have slipped to another part of our world - even though, just two weeks ago, I was still basking on golden sands in southern Spain and bathing in clear Atlantic waters.
Yesterday was Hallowe'en where the Autumn colours glow orange with pumpkin lanterns and the fruits of apple bobbing bounce red and russet in the bowl. I am reminded of our wedding day, on 31st October 1992, where the reception was dressed and adorned with all things Harvest and Hallowe'en. Food was served in hollowed out pumpkins and spread on broad autumn leaves. The air outside was sharp and chill, the sun soft in a sky of intense autumnal blue - a precursor for so many good things to come in the approaching festive season and in all the years to come. I can hardly believe it was 19 years ago.
Last night I had planned a lovely meal at home. We were going to eat and finally sit down to relax and watch one of the many programmes that are recorded and unwatched on our television. A quiet night in, of which we have so few. N promised he would be home in good time after a very early start that morning. The girls were going to carve pumpkins and do apple bobbing. As ususal, though, things did not go according to plan: L came home from school, burst into tears, got into bed and was later sick. So at 9 o'clock when I'd hoped to be eating with N, having shared the bottle of prosecco I had chilling in the fridge, I was actually running up and downstairs with buckets. N was still in Leeds and the beautiful, romantic table setting that E and G had so lovingly prepared - full of nightlights and confetti and wedding souvenirs - was haunting me in the kitchen. I did not know whether to go ahead and cook the meal I had planned or just settle for warmed up leftovers from yesterday. N was in a crisis meeting and I couldn't get hold of him. The tears welled and all the disappointment of so many times like this which have peppered our lives in his dedication to his work came flooding over me once again. E picked up on my vibe and she sobbed as she said 'I just wish I was little again when Hallowe'en was fun and we bobbed apples and ate red spaghetti and went trick or treating'. It broke my heart that she has got to that age where she sees and understands so much more of the world around her. She is no longer oblivious to the things that go wrong in adult lives, or the things in the world around her which are less desireable. It is called growing up. I hugged her hard and wiped away her tears and told her that I promised we would do another Hallowe'en when L was feeling better and that we would do some apple bobbing too. She chuckled and smiled through her tears and I was just glad that I was still able to reach the child in her and that she could draw comfort from some motherly reassurance that 'all would be well'.
In the end I decided to press on with cooking the meal - and I'm so glad I did. I sent E up to get ready for bed and had just said goodnight to her when N came bursting through the door. I said she could come back downstairs with us and share in our little celebration for a few minutes as she and her sister had so wanted to do earlier in the evening before it all went wrong. So despite the late hour, she watched us drink our prosecco (with all the memories it brings of our fantastically happy times in the Italian Veneto at the beginning of the 90s and, indeed, her birth in Milan in 1999) and her father opening the present her mother had bought for him: a large black and white framed photograph of the Grand Canal in Venice, taken by a photographer local to us here in the High Peak. It was a photo which I thought evoked the misty wistfulness that is Venice - until N peered at the people in the gondolas in the middle distance and saw that they were crammed with Japanese tourists. Suddenly the magic dissipated but best of all, N had made us laugh. We giggled till E was wiping away tears. It was lovely that she was there to share the moment with us. Our eldest daughter, on the cusp of her teenage years, witnessing a special moment in her parents' lives. Two people who have stuck together through thick and thin, who have tried to stay true to their wedding vows of 'for better for worse' and who, despite life's continued adversities, still find togetherness through laughter which was where it all began nearly 29 years ago. Golden days indeed.