In this, my fifty-first autumn, I find that I have started to count.
There is no way to know how many autumns I'll see, and there never was any way to know. Young people do die, after all. And people also live to be over a hundred years old. The counting I have started to do feels very like the counting of a child pulling beads or buttons from a drawstring bag. There's just no way to know how many are in there, or what they look like glinting in the sun or laid side by side on the step until they've all been pulled out and counted. This is what I am doing - counting.
And they're so beautiful!
This one here has that beautiful dark teal and black plaid wool in it. My mom made me a pleated skirt jumper out of that fabric one fall when I was seven or eight, I think. And this one has this crack right across it, but you can't see the crack unless you hold it up and look through it from a certain angle. That was the fall when my daughter was in Afghanistan and my son had moved out for college and it seemed difficult to take in enough air when I breathed. Oh! See this one? See how it's darker in the middle and paler pink at the edges? How it's shot through with this odd gold fleck? That's the fall when September 18 saw our first baby born. That button is 26 years old now, and it's a favorite. (click on the pic for a cool project done with buttons)
There are metal-edged buttons that look somehow like guitar music, and there are buttons in here that are the color of tears - because I wanted to finish school, but I wanted to stay home with my future husband and plan our wedding, and every time I got back onto the plane to leave him, I cried and cried.
One more, and one more, and one more, I pull them out in the days when the sun comes out. I hold them up against the turning leaves that stand against the evergreens at the edges of our field. I sit here, on this front step, at the house that saw great-grandma's children born, and raised, and flown, and now all gone. There is no way to know how many there will be. Each fall adds another, after all. And they are so beautiful.