The young man stood in the vestibule of the church. Mass had just ended and he was passing time while waiting for his ride. A notice on the bulletin board caught his attention. He read the rules for donating blood, surprised to see that epileptics, such as himself, were obligated to wait two years after a seizure before donating. He doubted that the parish would postpone their blood drive for another six months until he could get his doctor's written permission to donate.
Few people, maybe ten, had attended the Saturday morning Mass at the small town parish. Pleasant but quick, "Goodays!" were exchanged, then the church was empty but for the pastor hearing a confession, the penitent, two women, and the young man. One of the women, a youthful grandmother-type, came into the vestibule from the nave and said,
"How are you today?" with much vibrancy.
"Oh, pretty good," the young man flashed a winning smile. "And yourself?"
"Oh, very well!"
"It's a lovely day, isn't it?"
"And it's about time."
"Yes, it's nice to have a real fall at last."
"Oh, my goodness, it is nice."
"I wish it were like this all the time."
"Oh, so do I. But I've come to the conclusion that we need the winter to get indoors."
"Summer is so busy, we all have so much to do."
"That's true. And we're supposed to be on vacation."
"Right. But summer really is so busy. I don't think people notice how busy summer is."
"But winter, we can rest."
"We need that time to relax. I don't think we give ourselves enough time to do that."
"No, we don't."
"But winter forces you to stay home and enjoy some quiet time. I don't think anyone realizes how much running around we do in the summer. Winter gives us a chance to slow down. To enjoy some free time."
The young man was thinking about the lovely, peaceful dark of the winter nights, especially when there was snow on the ground. Just then, the other woman -- the young man couldn't tell if she was the first woman's daughter or younger sister -- came into the vestibule and said,
"I could use some of that today."
"Oh, hi, honey," the older woman said.
"Hi, dear." She turned to the young man. "Good morning."
"What's on your schedule today, dear?"
"Oh, what? I didn't hear you. I was looking at all the leaves."
"I asked what you have planned for the day."
"Oh, I though I'd spend some time outdoors today, if the wind stays calm. Mom's yard needs raking. I want to take advantage of all this sunshine."
"That sounds wonderful."
"Yes. Early morning and evening are the best times -- the wind's so calm. Then I can enjoy the night inside."
"You get an extra hour tomorrow," said the young man.
"Yes, tonight. The clocks get changed again," the younger woman added.
"That's right!" the older woman made a slight gasp. "My nephew called last night and I reminded him. He said until I mentioned it he clean forgot about it. He hadn't even heard anything on tv or on the radio, and his newspaper didn't say anything, either."
The young man smiled. "Well, the fall is the time to forget if you're going to get mixed up."
The younger woman agreed. "That's right."
"At least in the fall you'll end up early. If you mess up in the springtime you end up late for everything."
"Do you need help with those leaves, dear?"
"Oh, could you?"
"I could send Annie over."
"That would be so nice!"
"Yeah. Annie's still at the age when raking's fun."
"Maybe Jenny and Peggie would want to help?"
"Oh, no. You wouldn't want that. You'd have more kids than leaves in your piles."
"Is Annie up yet?"
"By now she will be."
"Well, go ahead and wait a bit. It might be too cold for her if she came now."
"If she's raking, she'll be warm enough."
"There's enough leaves to last all day."
"It's amazing how many leaves just one tree has." The young man wanted to remind the ladies that he was still there.
"Oh, my, yes."
"It's weird how some trees are bare and others are still full of leaves," the young man went on.
"Look at those maples across the street! Two of them are so bright and the other's just filled the neighbors' yards."
"Annie will be by around ten."
"You know, Mom wanted to go out and clean her own gutters!"
"She didn't, did she?"
"Oh, no. I told her I'd send Ted around next week."
"I bet I'll catch her getting out the ladder when I go by one of these days."
"She's quite the woman."
"Yes, she is...Well, I better get going if I want to get any work done today."
"Now don't you overdo it. Annie will do the hard stuff."
The older lady approached the door.
"Don't worry about that. There'll be no bag slinging for me -- by the way," her hand came away from the door. "Didn't Annie go out late last night?"
"Yes, she did. That's why she's still in bed. They got home at eleven."
"How they grow up."
"Mark is thrilled because he's staying over at Bryan's tonight."
"I'm sure he is."
"Yeah. After all this time with Annie and Jenny spending the night with friends, Mark finally gets to do it. He's lording it over Annie."
"Annie's in for the night. When she asked to go to that dance, I told her one night out for the weekend was enough."
"She is having Trish -- you know, the Marley's youngest --"
"Trish is coming over to keep Annie company."
"They'll have fun, I'm sure."
"Not too much, I hope."
"You know how kids can be at that age."
"All too well."
"Why, I remember when you were thirteen."
"Oh, please don't remind me."
"There was never any rain on your parades."
"I'm sure you managed a few wild times, too."
"Some of them, I have to admit, happened after I couldn't use youth as an excuse anymore."
All three laughed.
"Well, honey, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sure. And Annie'll be right over."
"It's going to be a fun day." She opened the door. "What'll you and David do today?"
"Oh, my goodness. What isn't there to do? We burned the last of the leaves in the dark last night after work."
"How exhausting. Today we'll either clean the garage or the basement storeroom. We need to clean the gutters, too."
The door closed.
"Can you spare David next week or the week after? Mom's windows need weather- stripping."
"I think so. Probably in two weeks. He wants to cut some wood and take care of the last of the gardening."
"When does he get the time?!"
"He doesn't. We get further behind every week. You should've seen the lawn this summer. And I'm ashamed to have people in the house."
"How are things at work?"
"Even more hectic. Those new government regulations are slowing down everything. I'm at wits' end. And David's sales are way down. Christmas is going to be tight."
"Time's are so tough."
"It seems like whoever's president things will be bad." Both women turned to the young man. "I feel sorry for anyone looking for a job."
"How's Annie's paper route?"
"Not too bad. It'll be a while before she likes sunrises again."
"Oh, just wait till she starts dating."
"Every daughter's mother's worst nightmare."
"And every girl's dream. Did she talk about the dance yet?"
"Not yet. She went right to bed."
"I wonder if she danced."
"Oh, I'm sure she did with the other girls. You know girls don't have a problem with that."
"I'm wondering if Annie found a brave boy."
"I'd be surprised if there were any boys there at all."
"Oh, I bet there was." She leaned her body against the door and a cool draft came in the church. "I'll find out when we're at Mom's."
"Don't be too sure. Kids these days like their secrets."
The draft was cut off.
"You don't think Annie could contain herself if she found a little boyfriend, do you? Wouldn't she want to tell everyone? Especially her mother?"
"It's not like it used to be, dear. Mothers especially are suspect. I don't know what's going on these days. No one talks."
"I remember the long talks Mom and I had. We talked about everything!"
"Sure!...Well, I kept a few little secrets, but I always told her the important stuff."
"Like when you were planning on coming back from eloping?"
"That was different." She giggled. "By then I was a grown woman."
"Kids are growing up faster these days."
"Even in Iowa."
"You're probably right. But I'm sure you can trust Annie."
"Oh, I trust her. I don't know how much she trusts me. It's hard telling."
"Yes, it is. And then they're grown."
"It's hard to believe that Annie's only going to be around for five more years."
"You still have eleven years before Peggie leaves."
"Yeah. And you know how time flies."
"Yes. It does do that...Omigoodness! Look at the time! Honey, I have to run. Maybe I'll come by when Annie and I finish. If nothing else, I'll drop her off."
"That's fine, but she can walk, too. It's not that far."
"No, it's not that far, but she'd rather have a ride. She'd die of sheer shame if her friends saw her out actually going through town on her own feet."
All three laughed.
"She'll plead exhaustion from all those leaves you're going to rake. Bring her back and then we'll have lunch."
"That'll be nice. I'll see you then. 'bye honey!"
One door closed as the older lady left the church. Another door closed as the younger woman left the vestibule and entered the nave again to see if her husband was finished with his confession. The young man smiled while he waited to leave.
Author Notes: Doesn't anybody stay in one place any more?
Does anyone really know what time it is?
Do you feel like I do?
Am I dating myself?!?