O, suns, and skies, and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;
By Helen Hunt Jackson
The heavenly blue sky of October overshadows our hills today; such an expanse of color that it makes a person glad to be alive. It is reflected in the blue morning glories that shade Sister Susie’s porch, and in the wild asters that peep through blue eyelashes at the world.
A wayward breeze rustles through the maple tree that is rapidly changing its green leaves to the red of autumn. This is the most glorious time of the year, when the earth is changing her garments. The growing and producing season is over, and it is time for a well-earned rest, for land and farmer alike.
The Harvest Moon will be shining in the sky Thursday night–a splendid sight. At no other time does the moon shine so brightly or seem so full. It is called that because at one time it provided more time for early folks to finish harvesting their crops. It was a frantic time when they scurried about, gathering in late gardens and gleaning their grain before cold weather. Now it is more connected with love and romance. Do you remember, “Shine on, shine on, harvest moon, for me and my gal.”
It brings other memories to me. This is the time of year when the young folk would have their “play parties.” The summer’s hard work was over, and it was time for some relaxation. We had very little entertainment, and nowhere to go except school and church, so we really looked forward to this time of play. It was informal– simply word of mouth that we were going to “gather up” and have a party.
Sometimes we would get together at the grounds surrounding the Virginia Office Building, and other times on the Ball Diamond. I remember one particular night when we gathered in the yard at Peggy Ann Hanshaw’s (now Courtney). It was a well-lit night, as an orange Harvest Moon was shining down on us. I can see it vividly in my mind now, as a sad longing for my lost youth hurts my heart.
The moon was so bright that the flowers and shrubbery made black shadows on the ground, and the white, two-story house was clearly seen. There was a flock of young people there, as we played the old games that our parents had played, and had been handed down from generation to generation. They are mostly lost now—just memories in the minds of some of the older generation– like me.
But oh! the magic of those nights! Youth and vitality mixed with excitement and pleasure. Although we were forbidden to square dance, these ring games were not much different. We held hands and played, “Four in the boat and the tide rolls high; “Four in the boat and the tide rolls high; Four in the boat and the tide rolls high; Waiting for that pretty girl coming bye and bye.”
Then it was “Choose your partner, stay all day; we don’t care what the old folks say.” After a partner was chosen, the song went like this, “Eight in the boat and it won’t go around, Swing that pretty girl ‘round and ‘round!” That song has a special meaning to me, as it was at a wiener roast and play party that I met my future husband Criss, and he picked me as a partner over and over!
With six children, their spouses, 22 grandchildren, their spouses, 31 great-grandchildren (one with a spouse and a baby) and more to come, the boat is bound to be pretty crowded! What if I had missed the boat? Sometimes I wonder what direction my life would have taken? I feel that God had a plan for us, and He has blessed us abundantly all these years.
Still, my mind has a tendency to wander back into that long ago and Never-Again Land, when I was a young, eager girl. The youngsters of today are so sophisticated compared to the children that we were. I see little girls dressed in high-heeled shoes, floating in “Musk” cologne and possessing an air of experience that we didn’t own at eighteen. As grade school girls, the one perfume that we were acquainted with was “Blue Waltz,” and it was a sure Christmas gift when a boy drew your name at school. You could sneak in your Mom’s cologne, and the only scents I remember was “Emeraude” and in later years she used “White Shoulders.”
When we got to be teenagers, it was “Evening in Paris,” in the dark blue bottle with the silver top. Oh, how glamorous we felt in our broomstick skirts that hit the tops of our bobby socks, and generously doused with “Evening in Paris” perfume! It is amazing to me that we ever got a boyfriend! But the boys would be waiting outside the church door to sidle up and ask shyly, “Can I walk you safe home?” It may not have been proper etiquette, but the boy walked on the side next the road bank, to protect the girl from taking a misstep and sliding several hundred feet over the hill.
When they reached her home, if the porch light wasn’t on, or her father wasn’t on hand to bid the young fellow goodnight, sometimes there would be a kiss flavored with Sen-Sen or Juicy Fruit chewing gum. (Although my father cautioned me that a proper young lady would not kiss a boy unless she was engaged to him. I asked him (quite logically, I thought) how on earth would a girl ever get engaged?)
October’s bright blue weather, and the Harvest Moon puts me in a nostalgic mood as I wander through the past that can never be again. I am thankful for the present, and that Criss and I are still in the boat as the tide rolls high.
By Mortimer Crane Brown