Summers remaining days stood still. Unwavering heat combined with humidity and exaggerated hues left eyes weary from squinting. Dandelion seeds hover momentarily under stiff swelter only to be beat down by sudden rainfall. Summer was running himself ragged  and was at risk of burning out. He  needed relief. Sensing this distress Autumn arrived early. Barely September and already fall.

She bustled in like an eccentric old auntie,  capable and prepared to take charge .With her, Autumn bought compassion in the form of dreary days.  Damp, dour days, where wet leaves promptly change colour and drop without flutter. Directly into the dirt to immediately get to the business of decomposing. Ordinarily one might find this sort of  season bleak or disheartening but aunt Autumn had a philosophy:  dreary weather allows one to indulge their heartache and sorrow. Sometimes all you need is a little time to withdraw and heal. Dreary lets you do that without self-reproach.

This is how Autumn comforted Chrysanthemum.  Together they strolled the property, both wrapped in wool shawls, through the forest and passed the deceased beech tree. They ruminated while treading across soiled leaves of red and gold and inhaling the scent of damp rot. Observing that the end never smells as good as the beginning. Endings are not as exciting or as pretty  but have their own familiar comfort. In these days of hiding inside cozy sweaters, retreating beneath bulky blankets and being lulled by fireplace roar,  it cushions the ending.

Thanksgiving weekend comes… and goes without recognition.  The long weekend passing without mention or celebration. The family still mourns but on Monday Lauren retrieves the box of red ribbon from chrysanthemums cottage. This year the children have no interest in Christmas trees or festivity. Instead little Lauren has another project in mind. She empties the box of ordinary red ribbon and string and begins to weave.

Life at milkweed lane seemed changed. Pop’s has gone and now Mums announces her decision to move to town. Her sister, Aunt Bunny, also a widow, has a nice house on the main street of Juniper Valley. A lovely place where the two can easily walk to market or the café and visit with friends without need to drive. Autumn had also conveyed warnings of  Winter. He is not an empathetic season and this year will be a long one. Winter is a believer of tough love, therefore thinks it best to bury  grief with snow and ice. Freeze it into a solid being, like an ice sculpture, one which cannot be avoided. By the time spring came back around all despair would melt and the buds of change free to bloom.

This was the first Christmas season to pass by Milkweed lane. Well, the first anyone of this generation knew of. Pops was the resident raconteur and he was no longer around to tell the tale. The children still received gifts from relatives and friends but they had not asked nor wrote to santa. Mr. and Mrs. Weald also received invitations and gift baskets (which they were grateful) but no one expected anything in return. Billy didn’t even come home from school. He stayed in his dorm with friends. Students who had come from places out of province or outside the country and could not afford tickets home. Chrysanthemum left her cottage on the last day of the year. Her belongings piled onto the back of a truck, the family forgoing the usual New Years party helping with the move instead. On the first day of the New year a house-warming dinner was held at Aunt Bunny’s. In honour of the new start in the new year, another chapter, and the next season of life.

Autumn did not lie when she said Winter would be harsh. The roads leading into town are treacherous and the journey slow going. It was dark when they set out yesterday morning and it will be dark on the road back. These days, just this side of the winter solstice, being the shortest. Tonight the sky is low and not a star can be seen. Light is blocked by unseen clouds, not a twinkle not a northern light. Once they drive off the main drag of town they will be without street lamps as well. Relying on only the trucks headlights to lead them. Standing in Bunny’s doorway saying they’re goodbyes Lauren presents Mums with her ribbon creation. A small wreath spun from ribbons collected for christmas trees.

“My dear Lauren, these are your ribbons. Did you not have another purpose for them?”

Lauren hugs her Chrysanthemum and says ” I collected the ones from the forest too. The ones that I could find anyway. They are all  here. To warm your new home with some of the old.”

With well wishes and declarations of love, with hugs and smiles through tears the Weald family departs for home. As Mums and Aunt Bunny wave them away winters freeze cracks…just a bit.