These late September chrysanthemum days saturate my natural senses with the faculty of memory.
While I separate laundry in the morning, the ruddy scent of football season recalls my dorm room on Central Michigan University’s campus. I know the rustle of autumn’s falling leaves from walking to classes and the football field to cheer, Let’s go Chips!
Such moments soak into your bones and soul.
Later in the day, the sun warms my arms as I pull cabbages from the earth and carry garden waste to the burn pile. I remember Merilee, my freshman roommate in the fall semester of 1968. A personification of her name, she says, “You’ll have to come home with me some weekend and watch my brother slalom.”
Fifty-two years later, I hear the speedboat; see Merilee’s brother in his wet suit spraying a fishtail with his ski on White Lake. In the house, Merilee holds her baby brother while her mother stirs spaghetti sauce for dinner.
That night, I sleep in the comfort of Merilee’s bedroom.
With four sisters in a three-bedroom ranch, none of us ever had a bedroom of our own. A year after my parents’ divorce, college came at the right time to escape the fallout. Although I want to reciprocate Merilee’s hospitality with an invitation to my home, it’s not a good idea.
In the waning sun, I return to the remnant of my beehive that survived last winter only to be sacked by yellow jackets. The sound of neighborhood children at play falls upon another beekeeping failure.
Frame by frame, box by box, I inspect the hive in bewilderment.
Why no honey in the top box? Not one sticky, healthy drop.
There’s no sign of disease in the two brood boxes. A handful of bees huddle over empty brood cells.
I remove the bottom box and find a cluster of dead bees on the bottom board. No sign of mites or wax moths. Yes, the hive must’ve swarmed and left the remainder too weak to fend off robbers.
There’s nothing else I know to do but leave the orphaned bees to themselves. I will begin anew next spring.
Long into the night, our neighbors gather around a bonfire with their family. A warm and moonlit evening when muted voices and laughter travel to open windows, I listen to the timbre of three generations.
I recall the darkest hour of my life.
Merilee and our suitemates had left for Christmas break. I am in bed in my dorm room, too weak to open my eyes. I sleep and awake in the dark and daylight. And sleep again.
Merilee and my mother don’t know I’m ill in bed. No one knows.
Dear Reader, I cannot remember rising to my feet. Or who rescued me. Or who drove me home. Yet, I stood as Maid of Honor in my older sister’s wedding December 28, 1968, recovered from the Hong Kong flu.
Surely, God’s healing, guiding hand rests upon me. Then. Now. And evermore.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.