A Family Tree, Nuts, and Poetry

Nothing bubbles the excitement within our house like autumn.

Our calendar explodes with plans and activities for the entire month of October:

Our children pose for a picture on a trail laden with fall leaves.
Our children pose for a picture on a trail laden with fall leaves.
  • Decorating the house for Halloween
  • Fall and Halloween-themed meals
  • Homemade apple pies and other apple treats
  • Walks in nature to surround ourselves the warm colors of fall
  • A visit to a pumpkin patch
  • A night of screaming at “haunted” trails and attractions
  • Pumpkin-carving
  • A fall or Halloween-related craft or art project
  • Costume-shopping and make-up practice
  • Visiting a cemetery or other local places of lore at night to tell ghost stories
  • Bonfires and keeping packet of hot dogs and marshmallows in stock
  • Trick-or-treating wherever and whenever we can fit it in (school, church parking lots, downtown special occasions – we are there)

This year, we were able to spend an afternoon at Bernheim’s ColorFest event. For a five-buck-per-car entry fee, we all enjoyed a $200 time. We launched pumpkins, folks, with a giant slingshot. We ran through a hay maze, made necklaces out of natural things foraged from the forest, made the prettiest mud pies you eva’ did see, played strange-looking instruments, and listened to fantastic live music (not crappy music, but actual sit-down-and-listen type of music).

Our older girls laughing seconds after launching a pumpkin through the air using a giant slingshot.
Our older girls laughing seconds after launching a pumpkin through the air using a giant slingshot.

At  some point while perusing the artists’ booths, we were asked if we wanted to write a poem about our favorite season, trees and the hippies who love them (we kind of fall into that category), or why we love nature. My teens and wife were leery, and hung back.

Our 7-year-old stepped up to take a pencil for a spin with her imagination at the wheel. She chose to write about winter (spelling corrected for easy reading) and is untitled:

Our youngest daughter's poem about winter.
Our youngest daughter’s poem about winter.

Winter

Cold, windy

Holiday, celebrate, no leaves

Santa goes to deliver presents

Mrs. Claus

She sometimes tells me she will be an artist like me, and other times she says she wants to be a writer like me. I tell her she can do both. I tell her she can do many things. I do.

Then I wrote a poem too. Moved by the moment of time with family I was fortunate enough to enjoy, I quickly penned the following (slightly edited from original):

Family Tree

My poem inspired by spending time with family in nature.
My poem inspired by spending time with family in nature.

Never a tree

More precious to me

Than mine, my family tree

Though it also be

Beyond flesh and bone

Its gold leaves

Bark

And nature

Are my home

I forget how much I enjoy writing poetry. I never forget how much I enjoy our Octobers, and that we don’t have too many left to spend like this.

My wife and youngest seconds tag-teaming the launch of their pumpkin.
My wife and youngest seconds tag-teaming the launch of their pumpkin.
Accurate pictorial representation of the wife and me.
Accurate pictorial representation of the wife and me.
Mud pie art.
Mud pie art.
A necklace made with flower petals, seeds, fuzzy leaves, and other items foraged from the forest.
A necklace made with flower petals, seeds, fuzzy leaves, and other items foraged from the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Envelope

I always took a walk with my 14-month-old daughter in the afternoons after work. A single mom, I couldn’t afford to do much else.

It was the beginning of October in our small town in Kentucky. The leaves were barely browning, and a few crunched under the wheels of the stroller as I walked the quiet road near our house. Just a few homes dotted the way and all were owned by people long retired.

Upon making our second round, I see a crumbled and dirty paper laying under a rock in the middle of the street. As I neared and my eyes focused, I could see it was a worn and stained envelope; the corners of money bills peeking through the top. I looked around. I had not seen or heard anyone on the street.

A bloody envelope found at the crime scene used as evidence in the OJ Simpson 1995 murder trial.
A bloody envelope found at the crime scene used as evidence in the OJ Simpson 1995 murder trial.

I removed the rock and picked up the envelope. Again my eyes swiveled up and down the street. I suddenly felt exposed and vulnerable. I grabbed the stroller and headed to the safety of our home.

Once inside and behind locked doors, I opened the envelope. It contained $2,000 and a note. It read:

Go to the pharmacy and you’ll find more. Bring the envelope with you.

I looked at my shabby house. I glanced at the pile of bills on the table. My eyes moved further into the kitchen. The sink broke over the summer, and I could not afford to fix it, much less hire a plumber. I was tired of washing dishes in the bathroom. I looked down at my gorgeous sleeping baby. She needed new clothes and a toddler bed.

I left the baby with my neighbor who was happy to watch her when I picked up extra hours at the diner and drove to the pharmacy.

I realized I was still wearing my uniform dress and apron, and wondered if I should have changed so as to conceal where I worked.

Once parked, I scanned the lot. No one was around. The streets were dark, and the pharmacy closed in ten minutes. On top of a trash can with a heavy, metal lid sat a large, flat rock. I got out, heaved the rock to the ground and opened the large envelope that was underneath.

I pulled out a black ski mask, gun, more cash, and another note:

Take care of the pharmacist or we will take care of you and your daughter. When the job is done, put the first envelope with the cash under the rock at the corner of N. 2nd and E. Beall.

Crime scene photo from millionaire Greg Williams' murder trial. He was killed by his own gun.
Crime scene photo from millionaire Greg Williams’ murder trial. He was killed by his own gun.

I sucked in breath and dropped the note. My thoughts raced.

“What am I doing? Oh God, what am I doing?”

The gun felt strange in my hand. I had never held one before.

I pictured my daughter’s tiny hands and thought of how she reaches to touch my face. I wiped my sweaty palms on my apron, slipped the mask on, and headed into the store.

A note from the author: Freaked out? I hope you enjoyed this work of fiction I penned to celebrate Halloween. The photos are, however, actual crime scene photos.