Along a busy highway in the part of Oregon where green things grow, sits an unsuspecting apple stand. And on a blustery day one recent afternoon, I ran into a little piece of the 1980s, or maybe I should say it ran into me.
My husband and I were taking some of my books out to my sister’s house and stopped in at the apple stand, which is my brother’s, to leave a book with him. He had just driven up, so I stepped out to greet him. In my periphery vision I noticed a woman, a customer, but thought nothing of it. Momentarily, however, the woman approached me, calling my name.
I looked at her. She read my face, a question mark, and quickly offered her name; this I recalled. A name from my past . . . how long was it? Before I’d gone to China, must be early eighties . . . how long ago was that, twenty, thirty years?
“You recognized me?” I asked, all but admitting I would never have known her.
“Of course,” she said, “ you look exactly the same.”
We stood there in the wind, trying to catch up on the last 27 years of our lives in ten minutes. I was amazed at how much she knew about me, how much she remembered. I said things that made her smile and laugh as we grew colder (Why didn’t we just go into the apple stand rather than stay there in the driveway, outside my car door?), and the memories slowly seeped into my conscieceness about how I had always made her laugh; how much I enjoyed friends who found me humorous, how laughter makes us feel better. I gave her my card, told her I was an author now, found out she had been a school counselor in Hawaii, but had recently had health issues. She wasn’t on Facebook, but promised to email. As we drove on down the road, I shared with my husband more of the memories now being unleashed.
Change scenes. Eight weeks prior, early October, same apple stand. I was working the cash register so that my sister-in-law could do some things in town. Just as we were opening the stand for business, a van drove up.
“Looks like that might by Trudy,” my brother said.
Trudy had been my locker partner throughout high school. She had been the catcher to my pitcher through the middle school years. We had been classmates from first grade through eighth grade in a country school with roughly the same thirteen kids for those eight long years. I had seen her once since high school graduation, about twenty years ago.
A little graying lady stepped out of the van. That’s not Trudy, I thought. But as she walked closer, I saw that it might, in fact, be her. Before I had made up my mind, she saw me, and her mouth dropped open in wonder and delight. My brother continued opening the stand as Trudy and I stood there, catching up on how many children we’d had, how old they all were, etc. Suddenly, I remembered that her birthday was in early October, and it was early October.
“Have you had your birthday yet?” I asked.
And here is where the middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, quiet-spoken mother of five transformed into the boisterous, brown-haired, Bill Walton fan, of my youth. She pointed at me, threw back her head in a giant laugh and said, “You’re fifty!” (Her fiftieth birthday would be in two days).
And there it was: that Twilightish passage of time in a split second. The feeling that one day you are sixteen and in high school, and then there you are, standing by the side of the road, white hair crowding out the black, fifty years old.
My brother’s apple stand will close for the winter in three days. I know I need some apples for applesauce. But am I ready for another visit from the past?
I’ll take my chances. Maybe there’ll be some fog…a strange man standing just off to the left…