Walked to the grocery store today. Pumpkins and squash and Indian corn ripe to overflowing on the shelves, nestled among autumn’s leaves and a scent I could have sworn the store had stolen from my home on Thanksgiving evening. And in that produce aisle of reds, oranges, afternoon golds that taste like honey? Italian plums. When they caught my eye I stopped in my tracks, suddenly frozen, suddenly somewhere else and sometime else and, possibly, someone else. Dappled leaves overhead, warm grass crushed beneath my knees, summer prickling my burnt-brown skin. Although I had not thought of this Wonderland for, God, how many years? it was all around me and I recalled its every living, breathing detail. A forest, a tanglewood, a massive castle of plum tree branches with a high court inside for the child brave enough to push through leaves thick with fruit and spiders to claim it as her own. A child brave enough with golden retrievers at her side to swipe their happy tails like machetes and a father-king to guard the drawbridge from unwanted arachnid visitors. So I stood there in the produce aisle, my shopping forgotten, as in my memory I crawled through the summer ripened kingdom in which I had spent so many years of my perfect autumn childhood, ripe plums clutched in my dirty fingers and the warm air thick with sweet flowered scents. And in recalling these things I suddenly missed my father so vehemently that I was not sure whether to cry, hurting from the years between then and now, or laugh, remembering the taste of fresh plums and my father asking, “What’s worse than finding a worm in your plum?” only to take a bite and answer with a grin, “half a worm!”. I had laughed then, absolutely delighted, and so I laughed now with both love and longing and continued on my way, thanking my own strange Providence for the gift of a memory too long buried but so easily retrieved by a bit of fresh fruit.

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