Evelyn’s Autumn

This essay was in an old folder. Fall reminds me of my grandmother, Nana, and I’m posting this today for the first day of fall. I still have fond memories and miss her.

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In Autumn I always think of Nana Evelyn. Lord, what a grouchy old woman. The entire time of my growing-up years she was always there, in the background. She was never demonstrative, and I was sure she didn’t care for me at all, but every once in a while she would spend time with me. One summer she taught me how to paint. I vividly recall her exceptional patience, as she showed me how to blend the reds and oranges to make fall landscapes, flicking a bit of yellow ‘just so’ to finish the medley of colorful leaves. My mother still has one of my paintings from that summer.

Fall colors just seemed to BE Nana. Anything with rich browns, warm reds and orangy golds would make her smile. She didn’t really come alive until October, a respite from the sweltering heat. Transplanted from Wisconsin, the southern climate sapped her. She never complained, just wilted.

She was different from us. I never once heard her say y’all or ain’t. When she was amused she would draw a deep breath and her eyes would widen as she pushed the air out with a little smile. The rest of us cackled and brayed. She was a tad more subtle than us girls.

She and I finally became friends after I had my third child. I began to understand her a little. I think she began to understand me, too.

During cool weather she would tramp through the woods, and pick up scraps of moss, bark and any other interesting bit of nature that caught her eye. My middle son shared a passion for creation with her, and she loaded him up with hick’ry nuts, pine cones and interesting twigs. She would explain what each thing was. “See” she would say, and he would, because he took time to notice the treasures.

She saved nature magazines and stamps for the kids, and always had a pepsi for them.

Every Christmas we would receive a plastic canvas ornament, or a ceramic angel with a crooked smile painted on by shaking hands. She made crocheted rugs out of plastic bags. My boys thought that was so cool. My sisters thought it was tacky.

Every holiday she remembered to send cards and had some small toy and candy for the boys when we dropped by.

No one seems to care about family holidays anymore. I never thought it was Nana holding it together. She never orchestrated the ordeal. That was left to the rest of us women. She just always showed up with that awful cranberry relish and tuna salad.

I have an unfinished cross-stitch I bought to make for her with two of her favorite things in the design, brown and red cardinals in an autumn setting.

When I’m out shopping this time of year and see something in her colors, I always think, “This is perfect for Nana’s birthday.” (It’s November 16) Then I remember and put it back.

I am glad I was finally able to see the colors of Evelyn’s Autumn.

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Do the seasons trigger special memories for you?

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