In the tall winds the seeds of old memories drift. On the updrafts and downdrafts and the vortexes of the tall winds, the tiny fragments of our lives float. Up and down and around they swirl, just below the veil of consciousness they tumble in the tall winds, until once in a while, like a nugget of gold in raging river, they appear in our minds. We can feel it, we can touch it, and we can see it without looking – without eyes. A memory pushed up from the eternal lands by the endless currents of the tall winds.
Once such event happened to me just last night. While I was drifting off to sleep a memory appeared in my mind. And just for those few moments, without opening my eyes or reaching out with my hands or touching it to my tongue, I could feel it and see it and taste it. A memory of a place and time long gone yet as here as the keyboard on which I type.
It was October and the leaves were in color – painted by the indelicate but beautifully artistic hand of Nature. There is no pattern to the colors, yet the colors are a pattern; they are the pattern of autumn.
We walked across the fairways of a golf course that was, although the day was clear and bright and as warm as many a day in spring when golfers could not wait to polish their clubs for that first round of golf in late March, was now closed for the season – and no one but me and my grandfather notice.
We noticed more than that. We noticed a waning autumnal sun. We noticed the wind quietly rustling in the orange and red and yellow leaves and slight swish of our footsteps on the soft grass were the only sounds. No golfers, no white balls soaring across the deep and perfectly blue sky, no sound of chatter, no golf clubs cracking a two-hundred-yard drive. Just a small boy and an old man – an old man who was never forgotten – not e3 though he has not walked up this Earth for forty-five years.
Forty-five years he’s been gone yet he walks with me today on this barren, beautiful, golf course, surrounded by the brilliantly dressed harbingers of winter. A landscape that could only have been painted so beautifully by the memory which lives, not only in my mind, but is alive right now in my soul.
Many Sunday afternoons in the fall, my best friend and I walked the sloping fairways of Plum Brook. I, a little boy of six or seven, carried a paper grocery sack. And I stopped at every buckeye tree to pick up the buckeyes that had fallen on the ground and tossed them into the bag.
The air is sweet and fresh, the autumn leaves are bright. Autumn for a child is a magical time – a colorful nursery for memories.
I bend over to pick up more buckeyes and put them in the Pick-N-Pay grocery bag, but by now it has become so heavy, I cannot lift it. I’m lucky. My grandfather- the best friend I ever had – is right by my side and he can lift it easily.
He carries the buckeye bag in one hand and we continue our walk on the bright green grass until we reach the forest that borders the fairway. I imagine there are many golf balls back there in those woods and I want to go look for them, but grandpa says it’s going to get dark soon… the days in autumn grow shorter and shorter quickly. Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
On the way back to the car – a 1956 red/black “tutone” Ford “Galaxy 500”, we walk along the the stream. The stream is called Plum Brook – it lends the golf course and the country club its name. I toss a a branch into the meandering brook and watch it as it sails along – in my mind a tiny ship – down the stream bobbing up and down in the clear water. It’s moving pretty fast and we walk faster trying to keep up with it – my grandpa still lugging that grocery bag filled with buckeyes.
“Grandpa?” I remember asking him. “Where does Plum Brook go?”. He told e it empties into Lake Erie. “Where does the water Lake Erie go?” I asked. My grandpa, now anticipating all the questions to come from a curious little boy, said: “Lake Erie flows over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. And Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence Seaway and that flows into the Atlantic Ocean.”
The Atlantic Ocean? The water in Plum Brook will end up in the Atlantic Ocean? A little boy can imagine great things and feel great wonder. I wonder about the little ship – the branch I had tossed into Plum Brook. Would that end up in the Atlantic Ocean too?
The sun was low in the sky as we reached the car. My grandfather put the bag of buckeyes in the back seat. We both got in the car and he drove home – by way of an ice cream store called “Otto’s”. We sat on stools and ordered ice cream sodas. He told me not to tell grandma or he’d get in trouble for ruining my dinner. We laughed. Nothing could could have ruined dinner or anything else on that ordinary day that I will never forget.
Plum Brook: It’s more than a little stream, a country club, a golf course … it’s a memory of a little boy and his best friend – his grandpa.
Afterword: If you google “Plum Brook” you’ll find that NASA Plum Brook Station comes up first. NASA was not there back when we gathered buckeyes in autumn. You’ll also see that Plum Brook Country Club also appears in the search results – it’s changed a lot 60 years or so since my grandfather and I gathered buckeyes in an old Pick-N-Pay grocery bag.