Fall is here and I’m not ready. This year as opposed to years past I’m forced to live, breathe, act differently as I struggle to discover a new normal and make it tangible. In the midst of my search life goes on and the seasons continue to change. Ready or not fall is here again, proof that the world keeps turning no matter how hard I want to go back and make things as they were.
I always loved fall. The changing seasons is one of the main reasons I knew I didn’t want to continue living in Southern California. Every January however, when the skies are perpetually gray and the meteorologists feel the need to qualify the cold with harsh adjectives like bitter, raw, and icy; Chicago doesn’t seem like the place for me. But fall has always felt good to me. I like the crispness in the air. I’m a sweateraholic so I love being able to pull a sweater from my collection and put it on feeling warm and cozy but unencumbered by coats, hats and scarves. Fall felt good to me most of all because of the vibrancy of the sky and all the brilliant colors that the trees hand us as gifts. There is something about the brilliance of fall leaves that awes me every year. Walking in my neighborhood looking at the awning of brilliance only fall trees bring made me believe in miracles. It has always felt like a miracle I was allowed to watch. My daughters know how much I love the beautiful colors and since they were small would bring me leaves of varied hues and type that they collected when they were out playing.
My daughters and I had already started our collection last fall. We were keeping them in a folder and I was showing them how to press leaves so that we could display them throughout our house. We took the leaves, put them between sheets of newspaper and then placed the heaviest books we could find on top of them for a few days. When we removed the books and looked at the leaves they were perfect specimens. They were dry without being crumbly and they had a resilience to them that allowed them to bend without breaking apart. We had started our collection.
After October 12th, 2008 the day of Jordan’s death everything was viewed through a haze. Colors, shapes, the brilliance of fall were a backdrop for shock and pain. In the days after Jordan died Mark and I took many long walks together. The only thing we knew for sure was that we couldn’t be far from each other. Neither of us felt able to drive but staying in the house all day amidst our well- meaning families was at times overwhelming. Sometimes we needed it to be just the two of us. The two people who knew and felt like no one else what it was like to lose Jordan, our oldest child. We walked, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking about our beloved son, and sometimes quietly weeping. We would find a park bench sit and allow ourselves to feel the exhaustion and weariness that had taken hold of our bodies and souls. Our boy was gone. We were in shock, and numbness surrounded us.
During our walks I continued my leaf collecting. Even in my haze, I felt purpose. The leaves I collected would be part of a scrapbook I would make. The leaves would sit amongst the many cards and letters we received from family and friends. So many of the cards and letters detailed special memories that were new to me of Jordan from those that knew, loved and admired him. I cherished every note that we received. I kept them to reread on those days when my worse fears surged and it felt that I was the only one who longed for Jordan and remembered him. Those fall days were the backdrop for my “mother loss” pain. It seemed only fitting that the earth should say goodbye as well. The leaves were the Earth’s notes to my son.
I couldn’t give up on life as much as I missed my child and wanted to be with him. I needed to touch and feel the good things the world had to offer. Those fall leaves were a symbol of that beauty. The leaves I collected on those walks were treated the same as the ones my daughters and I collected. I pressed them and then displayed them on the table in my entryway. I happened to look down at one of the leaves and saw that unlike the others that were golden yellows, maroons and reds, there was one that at the center had a
circle of green. It was my Jordan leaf. It still held green. How had I not noticed the green center when I picked it? When I got this leaf home and examined it all I could do was cry. Here was this leaf that had gone against the cycle of nature. The green center the heart of the leaf showed me what I was feeling about my child. The leaf like Jordan fell too soon.