I am visiting my September pasts. I am walking along our street at a lazy pace, the kind of speed which will accommodate my small son’s wish to examine every dead earwig and share a secret with every nudging, neighbourhood cat and inspect each snail shell in case ‘someone is home.’ The sun filters weak coins of light onto our backs but the first indicator that the season is changing comes from within. Specifically, my stomach. Before I even had a chance to be fully awake this morning, the open window carried to me the smell of fresh earth but with a new chilliness that was not there even yesterday and that burnt, peppery smell of leaves that are just beginning to crisp. Already a fluttering of anxiety had begun in my stomach, creeping downwards like a cold syrup, so steady that I could feel it unfurling like a flag. But really, what was actually wrong?
My stomach knew, independently, that this was back-to-school time.
Not for me of course, but my gut seems to have a memory all its own, responding to every scent, every nuance of the wind, transporting me back to the small, thin girl standing in the schoolyard with overly bright socks, gripping the tweed of my mother’s skirt till my knuckles were white. When the dreaded departure was upon us, she knelt down and slipped a rose patterned locket into my hand which opened to reveal two oval chambers with my parents’ photos inside. When the longing for home became really bad, she explained, I could just snap it open and have a little look inside.
The thoughtfulness behind this gesture still makes my eyes grow hot.
I also received two round peppermints – to settle my stomach and cheer me – and then with a crunching of heels on the gravel she was gone.