The fall came with Mozart and with the singing wind one morning. Reddish leaves and the knock of chestnuts under the window. “Refreshing fruits on a glass plate. Heavy dark emerald grapes, huge, jasper pears and a myriad of sparkling jewels.” The swish of brown leaves on the sidewalk, frightened song of birds on a walnut tree, pigeons with ruffled feathers on the steps of the church. The One high above has really put out for himself, brought as colors and sounds which humans can not even dream of. The rules of nature made all this possible.
The fall didn’t bring sadness. Not even then when the hearse started off that foggy November afternoon from the railway’s dark, muddy and slushy street. He just stood there in the gate, holding his father’s hand, and watched after the chrysanthemum covered black wagon. The mourning line seemed long, though not a lot were there to say a last good-bye from Károly. Close family, a couple of friends and neighbors. The funeral couldn’t be a big one anyway, as from his two older sisters, he was only in touch with Ilka and her family. His other sister, Marcel, was evil. Maybe because she had no child of her own is the reason why she became such a harpy, who tortured the girls even then when their father, her husband, didn’t speak as she wanted to. Károly couldn’t forgive her. She even reported him once to the police. When they struck camp for the night before going to the front, just near their hometown, he sneaked home to say good-bye to his wife. He wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. The road home was only a couple of kilometers. He was seventeen then. He didn’t know that his newborn baby girl was also waiting for him at home.
He was sleeping with his clothes on in the kitchen, Vera in his hands, when the two officers stepped in. He heard voices, and he saw a threatening hand as soon as he opened his eyes. There he is, there is the fugitive, can’t you see, said in an agitated and harsh voice Marcel to the two bayonet holding policemen.
They came to a halt in the door. This is the man who wants to slaughter his family, they asked Marcel, as they put their guns back on their shoulders. They looked contemplatively at the sleeping baby for a moment. Well, be sure to report in tomorrow morning, we’re moving on, said one of the officers. The other pushed the still frantic lady out of the kitchen, and closed the door behind them.
Károly was sent back home later from the front, a grenade took half of his behind off. He worked at a Jew trader, took loaf sugar, flower and potatoes out to houses, while his heart could stand the strain.
Opposite to Marcel, Ilka was a gentle and kind soul. They loved and helped each other with Károly, as it should be among siblings. She was the one who washed and covered Károly’s six week old son with a shroud, when diphtheria took him. When the child died, the washbowl turned over, told Ilka, with clasped hands, when they talked about the boy.
Then in November, both women were behind the hearse. And he just held his father’s hand, looking at the line as they slowly disappeared in the fog.
She thought of Károly. Come here my little girl, let me caress your hair. She put the baby down, when to his bed, held her head close, her bowed pigtails rolled forward, as Károly, with careful and slow movements, put his palm on her head. Now you can go, said he, and she jumped back to her toys. He called her a couple of times each day. This gentle encounter always looked the same.
The fall didn’t bring sadness. Maybe a bit of melancholy and pondering. Memories. Painful memories as well, which are heightened by the November fog, the sharp whistling wind, ruffled feathered pigeons on the ledge, the bitter smell of the forest, Mozart’s music. “The fall brought us this...the trees wave with golden hands...”
The wind pushes from the side of the Tisza, the chestnut leaves sigh, then the bitter memory turns to serenity and a smile. To an encounter.
Maybe this is really what we should do, when the fall summons lost times and memories, to think of life. To think of moments which are with us to this day, of faces, which stood by us on our road until now, and on those which are still to ride on with us. To have a sound, a picture, a movement, a color, to hand down in time. And we must never forget: “There were days, nights, mornings, evenings, dawns before us – it all turned to dust: beware, you walk on the dead with every step.”