I have a picture of my grandfather as a young man. It is a faded sienna photograph of Charlie loading barrels of maple sap onto a horse drawn wagon. It was taken in an east coast sugar- maple forest where he was working. My grandfather wore bay rum for cologne, sang English folk songs and though he never liked maple syrup he did press the leaves of the trees between the pages of magazines. Every fall, near the first of November, my grandfather would put one mahogany colored horse chestnut in his pocket. He said it helped ease his arthritis pain. Odd, to think back. I keep a horse chestnut by my sink in the bathroom. It has served a purpose in my own healing and it reminds me of Charlie who didn’t live to be the age as I have reached. Sometimes when I walk I put the horse chestnut in my pocket and though it doesn’t make my fingers feel better, it does ease a certain kind of ache.
What pictures will be left as clues to who we were? What anecdotal objects by some sink or on a table will be glanced at from time to time? What spicy fragrance will we become in someone’s memory; what songs that we sang will be remembered? Will there be a reverie of what we didn’t like on our pancakes and will that memory make someone smile some distant morning?
You walk your dog late one night in early November and a maple leaf lit by a street light makes you remember and wonder and be grateful for being able to do look both over your shoulder and ahead.