Going Back to Plum Brook
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 a 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.
Maybe as the stress of living in a world besieged by an enemy that we cannot see wears on us the mind looks for a break. A welcome escape. My mind is troubled and my life has been so changed with all that is going on that as if to provide a respite from this crazy world, my mind constructed a better world.
Such an event happened to me last night. While I was drifting off to sleep a memory floated into my mind, from where I do not know. 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 I could taste it. A memory of a place and a time long gone – in a world, I can only yearn for, yet as real as the keyboard on which I type.
It was October and the leaves were in their colors – painted by the indelicate but wonderfully 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 an empty golf course. 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, the fairways were empty. The golf course had closed for the season – and nobody but me and my grandfather notice.
Oh, we noticed so much 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. 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 I have never forgotten – even though he has not walked up this Earth for nearly fifty years.
I will never forget him as long as I walk on this Earth.
Almost fifty 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 in my soul.
Many Sunday afternoons in the fall, my grandfather — my best friend — and I walked the sloping fairways of Plum Brook. I was a little boy, maybe six or seven, and I 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 that 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 can barely lift it. I’m lucky. My grandfather is with me 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 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 stream. The stream is called Plum Brook – it lends the golf course and the country club its name. I toss 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 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 my grandpa and I gathered buckeyes in autumn. You’ll also see that Plum Brook Country Club also appears in the search results – but it’s not the same anymore – it’s changed a lot since my grandfather and I gathered buckeyes in the autumn and carried them home in an old Pick-N-Pay grocery bag.