Fall and remembering

Summer has given way to fall, and no season rushes up as quickly or is as welcomed by me as this one.  I swear the air is different.  The locust trees have begun to drop their gold leaves and the wind is kicking them around in the street.  My dahlias are past their prime.  We even had our first rain, yesterday.

Fall means lots of things to me.  Among them: chili and cornbread, oatmeal for breakfast, and more things with crusts like pot pies, fruit pies, pumpkin pies, and cobblers.  It means you can get out your sweater and slippers from the back of the closet.  And if you light candles at dinner, it actually gets dark enough to see them while you eat.  Fall means travel and gift planning for the holidays, it means driving around town and having to stop behind school busses, and it means my towel will actually dry between showers because the house is warmer and drier thanks to turning on the furnace.  And then there is the doughnut making.

Making doughnuts is our fall tradition.  It's also an act of remembering.  My mother in law, Esther, passed away 15 years ago tomorrow.  She made doughnuts in the fall, too.

Esther was a lovely woman.  I knew her for only about six years and she was in her 60s then.  I remember one time that she and Herman came to visit Byron and me at college when we were dating.  He was playing in a hockey game and I was sitting in the stands with Esther and Herman watching the game.  She was so concerned that I stay warm enough that she nabbed the bedspread off their hotel bed and brought it along to the hockey rink, insisting that I wrap myself in it.  I always felt that she was genuinely thrilled to have me in the family when I married her son. 

She was many things: a caring mother who always tucked a $20 bill into notes to her son, a baker of good bread and even better cinnamon buns, and a connoisseur of classical music who followed along with her own score when we took her to The Messiah one Christmas.  I also remember her nutty phrase like "Heavens to Betsy" and "I've had the biscuit."  I say them occasionally and think of her and smile.

Before she married Byron's dad, she had a life full of adventure as a single woman -- pursuing a master's degree in nursing and then teaching obstetrics nursing in Boston and Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.  Only after doing that for many years did she marry at 43, move to Northern British Columbia to set up housekeeping with Herman, and have a baby of her own at 44.

Each fall we make homemade doughnuts using her recipe, and in doing so, we try to keep her memory alive and not just in our heads.  In remembering her this fall I can't help but think about how much she would have loved Wyatt.

I miss you Esther.

Sunset over the Olympic Mountains as seen from our deck in September 2011


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