"The barn was very large," I read, from the Charlotte's Web book. "It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the persperation of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell - as if nothing bad could ever happen again in the world."
Past the rectangle of the window, snow fall, fat and wet and white. All morning, all afternoon, it has laid its whiteness down, and beyond the window, in the courtyard, the bare trees wear the red bulbs of Christmas. The sound of the weather has worked its way inside - the hush-pause and the down tick, the ache in the clock on the walls.
"Autumn." I stop. "Sweetheart, look."
But she has closed her eyes and she won't look up. "Keep reading," she says with a sigh.
"It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope," I read on. "And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay up in the great loft overhead. And there was always hay being ditched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep."
I smell Christmas Eve on Autumn's breath, the chicken pot pie that we ate with a slender wedge of cheese and a little puddle each of cranberry juice poured out in Dixie cups. Someone had bought in an old stereo and plugged it in with old-fashioned Christmas blues and we sat there, together, while Jimmy Butler sang "Trim Your Tree", and Felix Gross sang "Love for Christmas," and when Sugar Chile Robinson sang "Christmas Boogie," Wolfie took up Virgin Mary's hand in hers and a space was cleared on the tabletop and the two of them danced, Virgin Mary's eyes a million miles away, but something close and near on her lips, something like a blessing.