Dad suggested we bring home Café Rio for dinner. I suggested we pick up some pumpkins on the way. He protested that it was too early in the season, that they would just rot if we bought them now. I countered that if we bought them in a month they would have sat at the store for that month instead of prettily on their porch, and opined that the pumpkins would not rot until after the first hard freeze. He conceded the point. I parked at Lowes in a handicapped stall with direct line-of-sight to the pumpkin boxes, holding the pumpkins up one by one for Mom and Dad to give me the thumbs up or down for each. We left with four: traditional orange, wrinkled red, white with cream cycle splotches, and a deep green with skin lobed like a brain. At Café Rio, I stood Mom’s four-footed cane in the line. Mom and Dad sat at a table near the menu so I could explain their dinner options. The lady ahead of us moved the cane with her as the long line progressed, to keep our spot. Mom chose the roast beef burrito, and Dad the roast beef salad. Mom hinted she would like a tres leches for dessert, and Dad entreated for a key lime pie (diabetes be damned). “I’m worn out just from sitting there waiting,” Dad sighed as we walked slowly to the car. He had forgotten his cane, and so leaned on my shoulder instead. Back at home, Mom and I arranged the pumpkins festively on the front porch before settling into TexMex and Netflix.
When I moved five years ago, I decided to keep a beautiful centerpiece on my kitchen table, in all seasons, from fall maple leaves to spring daffodils to summer poppies. They have brought cheer and color to my little dining room. These silk and plastic decorations, from the dollar store, never fade in the dark or the cold. The poppies are my favorite, and sit on my table still in late winter. Their vase is a papier machet bottle made by my sister in elementary school. Admiring them both from my sofa, I decided they deserved a poem.
Poppies in Winter
my poppies are plastic, yet
they huddle so prettily
on my dinner table with a real sun-
fire brilliance in summer
I smell their perfume, I
my poppies stand in a bunched bouquet
in a narrow neck of glass glazed
with mottled patches of rust and brown,
earth of paper and glue
since grade school arts and crafts the bottle
has hid on a closet shelf until becoming
soil for my poppies:
sun-fire scarlet in winter
Roger Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human heart. The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.