Memory making in fall

Published 7:12 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September’s last days bring thoughts of crisp, cool mornings and colorful leaves falling gently to the ground. Pictures of tantalizing pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin-spiced coffee run through my mind’s eye filling me with anticipation. Fall festivals and harvest celebrations bring added pleasure to young and old this time of year.

Not only with this new season, but each time one season passes I look forward to the future. I often look to the past, as well.

Many of my happy childhood memories transpired at my grandparents’ old farmhouse in Neshoba County, Mississippi. One autumn day a few years ago… my little girl self squealed with delight when Mamaw said, “Children, would you like to rake leaves today?”

My sisters, brothers, and I knew raking leaves meant a big bon fire as the sun turned to orange in the western sky. Today would be a day to remember! Mamaw’s words conjured up thoughts of hot dogs and marshmallows filling our bellies to overfull.

Throughout the day leaves flew into piles and just as quickly scattered, as little giggling bodies couldn’t resist a jump right in the middle of them. How many times we raked the same leaves goodness only knows! The grown ups probably peered out the window shaking their heads and grinning at our antics. Some fifty years later, I can still smell the smoky fire and hear the laughter of my siblings, cousins, and I.

My late husband, Glen R., and I recreated this scene many times with our own kids in our own backyard. The crackle of the fire called us to sit beside her warming glow and share life together. Silly songs and stories with intermittent bouts of laughter caused our hearts to sing with joy for the gift of life and family.

Our backyard campfires and tent campouts with our three wee ones were so enjoyable that we began to toy with the idea of buying a little camper. We didn’t have much money, but thought our income tax return check might be enough for a used one.

We were so excited when we pulled our first camper into the yard. It was very tiny, ancient, and no doubt the ugliest one at the campground, but we packed it with laughter and fun. I shopped at yard sales and soon the little camper almost burst with board games of all kinds.

After a day of swimming and riding bikes our little family played monopoly, go fish, or checkers until droopy little eyes could barely protest bedtime. Then came evening prayers as the sweet sound of tired yawns filled the cramped quarters.

The Penton brood soon outgrew the ugly, old camper. We traded up a few times over the years, but I don’t know that we had a bit more fun in the newer and more luxurious campers that we purchased. Just goes to show memory making doesn’t take much, just a few hot dogs and marshmallows can get you started.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at