Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ah, vimmen!

Some days bring their own quiet significance. Yesterday (the 28th) was one of those.

To begin with, it was the first day that was no longer my birthday, a kind of un-distinction observed by a resigned re-shouldering of the rest of the year.

But it was as much what the day was as what it wasn't. A walk outside into the afternoon soon revealed that this was the key day: October's October. The trees seemed to have given their all, yielded up every color they had in them, colonnades of color, and having done their utmost, were beginning the turn to the utless. Sidewalk cyclones roamed the streets, whirling leaves into mad skitters. More leaf flurries than the day before, and few moments without at least one leaf twirling or floating down from some tree. The old trick or treat: now you see it, now you don't.

I went to check on the big maple, the bellwether tree in front of the Unitarian church. I'd sat under it a month ago when it was just beginning to turn. Completely bare now!

Overhead, highly patterned altocumulus clouds sheeted the sky, but below them afternoon sun defined distant trees like solid bronzed cutouts. And then the pewtery clouds overtook the sun, and there it was. November. A reminder that bronze is brown in another light. Later on, the sun came back, defying the slaty cloud cover in that classic New England sunsplashed overcast October sky.

Finally, the day was my mom's yahrtzeit. Two years ago Betty O., Sober Ober, passed away, age 96, loved by a lot of people, and I think she knew it. Shortly before she died, she broke a long silence to say "Thank you" to her caregiver, Rosie, who had just turned her in her bed. Good last words. Thank you comes from something good and gives it back.

She was complicated, like all of us: a worrier, a saver, a high school basketball player, a pianist, a nurse, a performer, a harmonizer, and a poet. She'd been a camp nurse when she was young, and had learned a number of camp songs. One she used to sing went:

In the vinter time in the valley green
ven the vind blows on the vidowpane
and the vimmen from the vaudeville
ride velocipedes on the vindowsill.
Ah, men! Ah, vimmen!

(Note: According to Google, most versions have the vimmen from the vaudeville riding their velocipedes in the vestibule. This makes more sense, but it doesn't rhyme, and who cares about sense? Me, I prefer the image of the tiny women on their tiny velocipedes running races on the windowsill.
Okay, ma. I'm going to bed.)

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