"…And thus, without a wing, or service of a keel, our summer made her light escape into the beautiful." Excerpt from "As Imperceptible as Grief" – A poem by Emily Dickenson
This old picnic table stands silently here in the park, like a sentry keeping watch. There's a chill in the air with ocher and crimson leaves scattered beneath, creating a polka-dot pattern, blanketing the frosty Earth below.
A time capsule full of memories of countless gatherings are buried in its formerly glossy, now grainy finish, I wish you could see.
On top, painted white by broad strokes of morning light, families once spread their love. At the west end was Grandma's award-winning raspberry pie with berries picked that morning.
Toward the center sat Mother's baked beans made with real molasses, Dad's barbecue ribs, he started cooking three days prior, Cousin Kate's delicious deviled eggs and Aunt Mabel's green bean casserole topped with her homemade onion rings.
At the east end, Aunt Martha's carrot cake, which she only baked for the annual family picnic, stood stoically, waiting, everyone eyeing it.
I imagine this picnic table as the antidote, save Christmas, for all the ills a family could muster. It's the only place young siblings could sit peaceably without strife over the smallest irritations.
In this very spot mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws managed to overlook their differences, for a spell, that is.
Resting silently now, this worn knotted pine place possessed magical powers, or so it seemed, gathering people from all parts on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings, coming together as one.
Strung like a garland of intricately connected family history, they'd steel jovial glances, share clean jokes and say grace on these planks.
Swapped summer stories of cattle wrestling and rodeos; crop futures and soil moisture.
Births and deaths.
Heartthrobs and heartaches.
Weddings and divorces.
Like a loving parent, permitting its children to indulge and muse over what could have been, what is and what will be.
It was a portal of good times.
Arms wrapped round shoulders. Hearts joined.
Hands harmoniously passed covered dishes from one to another, like peace pipes.
An enduring narrative, it is an ardent analogue attesting to the many fences mended across fading boards.
Waiting in quiet dawn, it is an aspergillum of holy water that once sprinkled blessings on all who tucked their knees beneath or reached across it.
Abandoned, sleeping in the clearing, it is a forgotten journal with a long memory of weekend getaways and day trips.
A tired, worn lover of sorts with its naked benches splayed out across empty overgrown grass below. Summer has gone away and this table, laden with a spread of bird droppings, scattered pine cones and needles two-by-two, keeps company with no one.
A journal, holding jottings of life gone by.
There's a chill in the air. Ocher and crimson leaves are scattered beneath, creating a polka-dot pattern, blanketing a frosty Earth below.
A time capsule with memories of many gatherings buried in its grainy finish.
The faint sounds of a migrating birds breaking through distant light heralds another season passed. The holler of a lone dog barking cuts through a curtain over this place, once bounding with life, now obscure.
Until next year, that is. I wish you could see.
2011 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on FaceBook.