Written by Carol Beaver, Church Advocate, Legacy Coalition
While there is something I love about every season and every month, when pressed to choose my favorite, I will choose autumn and especially October. Across our country, it is a month of breathtaking beauty and bounty.
In my home state of Minnesota, we appreciated every bright and glorious shade of orange, red, and yellow lining the streets and roads.
We gathered the most brilliant leaves looking for those that were the most perfect example of their kind. The broad maple leaves would be shades from red to pink, orange to scarlet, or yellow to bronze.
The leaves from the poplar trees gave a lesson in shades of yellow. The very best ones were laid between sheets of waxed paper and then tucked in large heavy books to be pressed and dried, simply to preserve their beauty for a little while.
Occasionally, one would remain in the book for months or years, but the color and the memories remained intact.
Dad’s chrysanthemums and Mom’s pansies provided a last-ditch riot of color in the flower beds that surrounded our home. The mums were cushions of yellow, orange, pink, and red taking over the space once occupied by tulips. Pansy faces smiled up as I moved in to pick a small bouquet for the kitchen table.
My dad was a gardener with a green thumb. In our day, we would call him a “Master Gardner.” Additionally, he was the provider of fresh produce for neighbors and co-workers.
One day as he put corn in gunny sacks to take to the depot, my mom said, “I appreciate all our garden produce but do we have to grow it for the whole Chicago Great Western Railway?” He just kept filling; adding cucumbers, onions, carrots, and tomatoes.
Fruit trees and grapevines occupied one edge of the garden. He grew several kinds of apples, plums, pie cherries, and even winter hardy white peaches. He loved his garden. He taught me to love and appreciate the fresh food we had, and he taught me to care for it.
Retrospection has shown me that my parents worked together in this because it was a necessity. In some ways, we lived above our means because of their efforts.
October marked the end of the garden, but not before its bounty had been enjoyed fresh daily and been frozen or canned for the winter. He cleaned his garden and tilled the soil so that it would be ready for the next year.
Once the garden and yard were cleared, there was time for Sunday drives around the countryside again. We would meander around back roads and into river valleys observing the changes coming over the landscape.
We noted the farmland and the field in various states of harvest. Some were clear and newly plowed; others still had stubble from the corn or soybeans. Depending on conditions, we might see a farmer harvesting the last of the corn or baling hay or straw.
Even after my dad died, my mom kept up part of the garden for many years, but it got smaller and smaller. The peach trees did not produce fruit again after he died and were eventually cut down. I learned to can and freeze produce and had a garden for many years.
However, the fall trips to view the colorful autumn countryside continue to this day. I learned to drive out of necessity two months after my dad died. My mom had a license, but she did not drive the car.
However, she was my licensed driver in the car as I practiced. I passed the test at age 15 after 6 lessons with a driving instructor. The man who observed my driving passed me in a gift of grace.
That fall, Mom and I did some driving around the countryside. A new extended family tradition began when the family within 60 miles decided to have a Saturday apple orchard sampling and buying excursion.
Sometimes we were in two cars with two uncles driving. They would argue about which orchards in SE Minnesota were the best and eventually agree on a route.
Now, decades later, the coming of October bubbles these memories to the surface. My grandchildren never met Uncle Gord or Uncle Ray. They did not meet the three sisters, Amy, Iva, and Elsie (my mom) who were a hoot. The sisters corrected each other constantly and argued like 2021.
However, the girls and even their two stepbrothers know the stories and recognize who’s who in photo albums. They also know that these siblings loved each other despite their arguments.
As I write this, I can hear their voices in my head and know that they loved each other fiercely and left today’s generation with an understanding of their heritage. The two girls have even figured out which of them is Iva and which is Elsie. It is a part of their legacy.