I just finished a full day outside doing winter yardwork. I raked the remaining leaves, cleared some brush, and brought firewood up to the house. Now the sun is setting, and I am sitting on the porch enjoying the last light in the western sky. It is cold, so I am still wearing my leather work gloves, a past Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. There were other gifts that year, but I can't recall any of them.
As I look at the worn gloves, I see them as a road map of the past. I think about the many times I have worn these gloves.
First there were all the household moves. I recall moving my younger son from his college apartment in Blacksburg, Va.
It was a long day. We left home at 4 a.m., towing a trailer. We emptied the apartment, cleaned up three years of grime generated by four roommates, and drove off.
It was 2 a.m. the next day when we arrived home. We emptied the trailer the next morning, filling our living room and garage. A few weeks later, we moved him into the condominium he and his future bride bought.
Then there are the moves of my older son and his wife, first to a new apartment, then across the country. I remember looking at the gloves lying on the front seat of the truck. I recall 3,000 miles and all the incredible scenery, the crosswinds in South Dakota, the mountain passes in Wyoming, and the truck and trailer inching their way up mountains and careening back down.
I think about packing the gloves the morning I left my son and daughter-in-law at their new home and saying good-bye at the airport while fighting back tears as they started their new life in a distant place.
Finally, the gloves went along when we moved my son's mother-in-law from her large house into a smaller townhouse. Facing divorce, she was not only downsizing her home, but realizing the need to downsize her life.
I take another glance at the orange sky going purple and think about the intriguing and comforting way little things trigger memories and how the memories follow threads that tie things together.
In the gloves, I see the passing seasons and change.
I remember the renewal of planting bushes and flowers in the spring. Then I recall raking leaves and pruning shrubs in the fall. I am reminded of the smell of decaying leaves, the reassuring autumn fires, and the coming cold.
I think about a stormy night and the sudden crack and the slow moaning of the large maple tree out in front of our home as a huge section came down.
In the weeks that followed, I wore the same old gloves as my sons and I cut down the rest of the tree. Later, we split and stacked the firewood for the approaching winter.
I look at the gloves again. There are the scuff marks from moving the flagstones and building the retaining wall. I see dark stains that I think might be from cuts – I can't recall. But looking harder at the crimson marks, I wonder if they aren't rather from staining the deck for the wedding rehearsal dinner – the October dinner that was forced inside. I smile at the idea of six weeks without rain and then the record rainfall we had during the two days of my son's wedding festivities.
In thought, I am instantly thrust back 27 years and recall the hard rains of the October day my wife and I exchanged our own vows.
It is getting dark and colder. I turn up the collar of my barn coat. I look at the holes in the gloves, the signs of wear, each one triggering a memory, a reflection on the passage of time.
My wife calls to me. Dinner is on the table. It is dark now, the first hint of stars appear in the eastern sky. I smile at the thought of how things so simple and insignificant as a pair of old gloves can carry so much meaning.
I head for the garage; I toss the gloves on the work bench. I glance back at them. They have been valuable and useful companions, a small but cherished gift. It is sad, but I think it is time for a new pair of gloves.