This FC's earliest memories take place in a modest brick house on Flippen Road in a town called Stockbridge. Not the home of Alice's Restaurant. No, I don't think you could have gotten everything you wanted in my Stockbridge, Georgia. And there wasn't a restaurant made famous for its amazing brownies and a song written by Arlo Guthrie. My memories there are like little blips on an old 8mm movie. They come and go and often skip around. They are good ones though, filled with precious people. The smell of honeysuckle and the sweet juice of a watermelon on a hot summer day. My father was beginning his life's calling as a minister at a small Presbyterian Church in Stockbridge. He and my mother - in the space of six years - brought three baby girls home to that little brick house on the hill, but in 1960, he accepted a call to a growing church in South Florida. I was only six years old that year that we moved. I can only remember, or maybe I was told later on, that my mother was heartbroken at the news of the move.
She was from a little town in North Carolina and Miami was like a foreign country to her. I think the thing that she missed the most was the change of seasons. Everything was always green. Different shades of green, but always green. She missed spring being sprung. Seeing the daffodils and crocuses pushing up from the cold earth to announce the imminent arrival of warmer days. She missed seeing my dad's roses leaf out and form tight buds before opening their petals to the warm Georgia summers. She missed the threat or promise of an ice storm, snow falling so thickly you couldn't see through it when we had to hunker in and ride it out. It would be many years before she was able to scoop clean snow off of a car hood and make snow ice cream on a cold winter morning. I know however that the season that she missed most of all was fall.
Crisp cool mornings that have you digging for a sweater and and knee socks after a hot sultry summer are hard to beat. Something about her children starting school again made her long for crunching leaves and the golden colors on the trees of fall and it brought out in her a melancholy that was hard to miss. She taught school and there were some basic elements missing from the ritual of back to school when you were going back in Miami.
Fall in Miami brought about the return to school, the end of beach breakfasts until Spring and the anticipation of CARE packages from points North. Anxiously, we awaited the arrival of the two boxes that marked the beginning of Autumn as surely as the harvest moon on the Autumnal equinox. Box #1 always came first. Down the highways and byways from Georgia it traveled with the United States Postal Service delivering it sometime around Labor Day. The treasures inside were notebook paper, unsharpened pencils, ball point pens, stenographer pads, rolls of scotch tape and other things otherwise known as school supplies. Book satchels were packed and repacked with these supplies and secured in the saddle basket of bicycles by my sister and I on the first day of school.
The second box came a bit later, around the first of October. It was from our grandparents in North Carolina and our Mom would always wait until we arrived home from school to open it, but I know for her that was a hard wait. This package symbolized home for her. A tangible, touchable link to the falls of her youth. For my sister and I, it meant an A+ in "show-n-tell" the next day. Breaking the packing tape seal we could immediately smell the earthiness of its contents. It held a sampling of a fall day in North Carolina for us to touch, feel, see and smell. The colors were the amazing rainbow of an October sky. Full of the leaves from the trees in my mother's childhood yard. Reds, yellows, bronzes, browns in every shade. Crinkly and leathery, they rattled and rustled in our hands when we waved branches of them in the hot and humid air of south Florida. Acorns, beech balls, pine cones...anything that might softly whisper a welcome from the missing fall fairy for my mother was included. And hidden within the gifts of mother nature, was the unspoken and unwritten gift of the love her parents packed in that box for her each fall. Her face took on a far away look and her joy with that box was a virulent contagion for her girls and became a treasured memory of this FC.