D. A. Chase, Fall Walk into the Past
November Story 1965
“So, are you excited about Thanksgiving?” Dawn asked.
“No,” the older sister replied. “I don’t get why decorating for Fall is so important,” Darcy untangled the plastic vines of leaves from the tub Mom kept for their Autumn display.
Dawn sighed. “Let’s take a Fall Walk and look for anything of a color other than green,” she said putting her construction paper project on the table.
“What we need is an adventure,” Darcy said grabbing their pack by the shoulder strap. After checking with Mom, the two girls walked down their city street looking for something that might add to the November decorations. The wind came up from behind and hurried them down the street, and into a pine forest of their imagination.
“We are in the mountains,” said Darcy looking around and up at the tall the pine, spruce, and fir trees as the wind calmed.
“Look at all the colors!” Dawn exclaimed, seeing leaves of dark reds to light yellows of the maple, apple and poplar trees, mixed in among the dark green. “We don’t have anything like this in the city.” Turning round and round, the two sisters looked in awe about their new surroundings.
“We don’t have birds like this either.” Dawn was peering into the branches of the Jeffery Pine to see the Stellar Jay nodding back at her.
“SQUAWK, squawk!” the bird called.
“What a big sound from such a pretty, blue bird. Look at the black mohawk he has on the top of his head.” She turned at the “wicka, wicka” call from the tan and rusty colored Flicker flying by. These aren’t like our sparrows at home, they are so elegant as they fly,” Dawn said gesturing with wide-spread arms to the skies above.
Darcy was walking backward, looking at Dawn’s birds and just about stepped on a chipmunk with his tail straight up in the air, scurrying across the street. “Hello little one,” she said as it dashed under a bush lining the old, gray road.
“I love this,” Darcy said. “Narrow streets, but no sidewalks, not even a curb to mark the edges.”
A gray squirrel basking in the sun did not like to be disturbed by the voices and turned to Darcy jabbering away at her, then disappeared up a tree.
“Every house is different too. That one is a small, old cabin in the middle of its own trees, and the next house is huge, and pretty new. And there,” Dawn pointed. “Look.”
Water,” she said catching a twinkle of light off the water just beyond. “Where are we?”
The younger sister continued to look all around, while walking the short path between the houses to the soft sand and rocky shore of a lake. Dawn examined the trees shading the edge.
“This tree is overloaded with apples, and so is that one,” she said looking at each one as she passed. “There, across the water, is a small white building with a ball on top; an observatory I think?”
“Big Bear Lake,” Darcy read on a map that appeared in her back pocket. “So, if the solar observatory is there,” she said pointing to the other side of the lake, “and we are standing at this angle to it, we must be here at Sawmill Cove.” She studied the map closely.
Dawn looked over her sister’s red plaid shoulder at the place on the map. “Yes, I think you’re right.” She thought a minute and said warily, “That means we are hours away from home.”
“Yep. Let’s look around and see why we are here,” Darcy said happily as she was picking up pinecones of different sizes laying along the side the road. “These will be great for decorating and look at the leaves.” She reached down to gather an armful of different colors. The slight breeze was building into a wind and leaves were floating off the red maple trees across the driveways and down the street.
“Do you hear that? It is almost like a sigh,” said Dawn watching the leaves of the apple trees chasing the others down the path. Dawn closed her eyes and strained to hear just the sounds in the wind.
“I love the sounds in the treetops. Look at the birds floating on the air currents way up there. And the clouds are changing as we speak.”
“But Darcy, listen. Don’t you hear them?” Dawn said still leaning into the wind. “It sounds like a family of different voices.”
Darcy stopped what she was doing, followed the path to the water, found a big rock on the shoreline and took a seat. Looking over at her sister, she tried to concentrate on what Dawn was focused on. Closing her eyes, the many parts of this new world drifted away and only the sounds in the winds could be heard.
“Some are high and then there is that low fatherly sound. And chuckling, I can hear laughter, I think,” Dawn said.
“I can almost see them,” Darcy added as she became comfortable with her vision.
“There are ladies wearing white blouses and long skirts with their hair up on top of their heads, one’s holding a baby, and each has a basket over their arm. I see a couple of men with them. The one with a round belly has a brown vest on with a pocket watch chain showing. The other has wire-rimmed glasses on with his white shirt sleeves rolled up above his gray suit pants. Do we know them?”
“I don’t know, but I see kids running around picking up pinecones, just as we are,” Dawn opened her eyes still seeing the vision. Taking a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air she added, “Maybe they are gathering for their family party, too.”
“I see a group of boys, from about age eleven and down. Can you see them, Dawn?
They are having a war throwing small pinecones like rockets at each other.”
“I see the boys, but the girls look clean and neat in their white and cream dresses.
Each girl has a big bow of the same color tied at the back of her neck to hold her hair in a braid down to her waist. They are running around too. I think they are looking for the biggest pinecone,” Dawn said, admiring all she saw.
“I get it, families have been doing this very thing for centuries. We are part of their world and they are part of ours through tradition.” Darcy stood, opening her eyes, and enjoying the throwback moment.
“Even before that,” Dawn added. “Fall festivals have been carried on throughout history all over the world.”
Just then the wind picked up and the girls found it hard to stand.
“Darcy, I think we should go home now.” The wind came in big gusts, pushing the younger sister down the street with the leaves. “Whoa!”
“I am thinking the same thing. We have everything we need so let’s go.” Darcy was pushed next to her sister and the two were being blown over the country road, then down the sidewalk of their own street and back to their home.
“That was amazing! I want to do that again!” Darcy said walking down their ordinary street.
“I wonder what they were trying to tell us. They looked so familiar,” said Dawn looking dreamily, replaying their adventure.
“Mom, look at all this great stuff we found,” Darcy said as the two girls spilled into the room where Mom was placing a pumpkin and silk flowers in the center of the dining room table.
“Where did you ever find such beautiful things here in the city?” Mom said admiring each thing in their pack.
“I don’t know how we did it, but that was a great place to see,” Darcy said winking at Dawn.
“How can we help?” asked Dawn.
“Decorate the mantel from that box,” she replied.
Darcy pulled out a picture and set it on the mantel. She waved for her sister to come and see what she had found. The ladies in the brown and cream photo looked just like the ones in the forest. There were children hiding behind pine trees and two men off to the side watching over it all. It was of a Thanksgiving past and the women seemed to smile and nod to the two girls and then froze in their sepia form, once again.
“Who is that in the picture,” Dawn asked.
“And when was it taken,” Darcy chimed in.
“That is your great-grandparents Frank & Nellie. Frank and sister Ethel along with their brother Harry and families would take a road trip to Big Bear Lake each year to enjoy the Fall in all of its glorious color. That would have been more than 60 years ago.”
The two girls smiled to each other. “Tell us more.”