Tuesday, October 26, 2010

September Child, October Ache

Autumn surprises me again with the same pain, the ache as I watch another year pass. It’s the same every time. The clarity of the air and light. Sound of a distant train, metallic, resonant down in the West Bottoms. Clatter of leaves, pull of wind. All of October, all these diamond minutes passing brilliant and lost. And now October is over also. Now November and the tail end of the season.

It makes me hurt: that I will never get this year back. This precious year. That it passes even as I watch and listen—strain my eyes, strain my ears.

It seems to me that October almost doesn’t exist in and of itself: it stands as a monument to lost things, is lost itself. Every October I am bombarded by memories, almost overwhelmed with nostalgia. I was surprised the other day to come across a photo of my husband and myself—one of the first ever taken of us together. We are no more than seventeen or eighteen years old. We are standing by the lake, at sunset, visibly nervous, arms awkwardly around each-other’s wastes. Fresh faces scared. This was not even ten years ago. But nearly ten years ago. And it’s lost—as lost as if it were one hundred, one thousand years ago.

Or yesterday as I walked it all came back to me suddenly—a cold Fall in Chicago when we were in college: down-town, the lake ice, the steel skyscrapers, blue everywhere. Russian tea and black bread in some restaurant I forget its name.

I forget its name. I forget the taste on my tongue. Even memory cannot preserve this. Even memory leaves me.

So the season is passing. Autumn falls on us so beautiful, and beautiful only because it passes and passes quickly, speaks of things passing.

It’s fitting, then, that Harriet is a Fall baby. I find I cannot keep her either. She is growing up and leaving before my eyes. And why is it that you can’t write about babies without falling immediately into cliché? These sentiments, repeated by a million million mothers for a million years. How quickly they grow up. Treasure treasure treasure this moment, for it will pass, and no matter how you treasure it, clutch it close, hold it tight, it will escape you. This child will never come back to you. You will be left an old woman with your memories.

But I understand now. I understand those clichés. Oh how I love her—her face as she sleeps, her smell, her heavy head knocking soft against my neck, her small noises, her little fists. Her face at this moment—now, this instant!—and the moment is gone. Lost—as if it happened one hundred, one thousand years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. But you have words and they bring back the memory, and the memory as a present tense experience, not as something lost, past. As long as you have words. They are stronger than photographs, in fact, although these are extraordinarily beautiful, both photos and words. You have the present, my dear. Hold to it.