When Zeynep was just a tiny thing, wobbling around like a just-born calf, she liked all the seasons in equal measure — the cherry blossoms, the dense summer canopies, leaf piles, the conifers strung in lights. The world was surprising and exciting in all its forms because it was new.
When Zeynep turned five, she decided, “Spring is best.” A funny honk would cut through the silence, then another, and she’d find a vee of geese, signaling the coming thaw. Soon after, her mom would buy little pods of dirt and they’d plant seeds in the middle of each one, tending them with a spray bottle every morning until a flash of green — then another! And another! Until one day she’d look out the window and suddenly see that the green had spread out there and everywhere. Spring was birdsong, blossoms, and baseball. Her dad took her to opening day and taught her how to keep score and pay attention. How to listen for the crack of the bat, the crowd catching their breath. To raise her arm high in the air and find a fly ball in the center of her mitt.
When Zeynep turned eighteen, she changed her mind. “Summer is definitely my favorite season.” She was sure. So sure of this and of everything. Long days, long nights, the open road spreading out in every direction, her hair whipping in the wind, her bare feet in the sand, the spray of the surf, beads of ocean water on her tan skin, a lover’s hand, interlaced fingers communicating in a way words cannot. Corn knee-high in July, fireworks, festivals, camping trips, weddings, one being her own.
When Zeynep was thirty-five she thought, “Maybe, I prefer the fall.” She wasn’t sure of anything now that she had kids, but she enjoyed the morning routine, preparing sandwiches, securing backpacks on little shoulders, kissing the tops of heads, helping them up the big steps of the yellow bus. She liked apple picking, pumpkin carving, warm cider, and the autumn foliage, Midas-touched in gold. Cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, clove. The late season feast with family and football. The crisp air.
Zeynep is older now, a woman of eighty-eight with four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild — a dozen branches extending from her bough, a dozen beating hearts that will go on loving long after hers has sputtered to a stop.
Outside the window, lake effect, soft flakes the size of quarters drift down like dandelion seeds. The backyard is a stark plain, so flat it looks like someone skimmed the top with a blade, so white, it’s blue. The trampoline, tucked back in the corner by the fence, looks like a half-full glass of milk. Then, a flash of pink–her great-granddaughter, running stiffly in her snowsuit, red cheeks, hot breath condensing in the air giving off the illusion of smoke, muffled steps corrupting the previously pristine landscape, her tracks meandering and loop-de-looping like a Family Circus cartoon.
Zeynep waits, warm under a quilt, watching out the window as three balls are rolled and made into a man. She waits, listening to shovels scrape the sidewalk, someone chipping ice off a windshield, sounds reflecting hard work she no longer has to do, but are nonetheless familiar, a part of her. She waits, as holes are filled with fresh flakes. Then, she hears it, the thing she’s been waiting for, the commotion in the mudroom, the stomping of boots. The little girl — Eliza, named after Zeynep’s mother — bursts into the room, primary teeth chattering, complaining about cold hands. Zeynep shows her how to cup them together and use her own breath to warm them.
Zeynep’s granddaughter appears with a plate of molasses cookies and cups of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, which quickly ends up on the tip of Eliza’s nose. They’ve watched this movie a million times, about the six-foot elf who eats spaghetti drenched in maple syrup, but it’s funny every time. Even though Zeynep has difficulty picking up a cookie with her knobby, arthritic fingers and even though she can’t recall her granddaughter’s name at the moment, she thinks, “This. This is my favorite season of all.”
As a nurse, Laura Carnes Williams has seen people come into this world and leave it. As a writer, she tries to make sense of it all. She lives in Central New York between two of her favorite places, The Finger Lakes and The Adirondacks. To learn more, please visit www.LauraCarnesWilliams.com.
Happy Holidays from all of us at EDF!