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"Prelude to Autumn"

“Summer now is ending
And nights are getting cold,
The autumn now is nearing,
As time is growing old.”
“Prelude to Autumn by Mary Harrington

I couldn’t believe it when I turned the calendars in our house to October this week. October is a beautiful month. We have been to Castle Island several times over the past few weeks. Friday, when we drove over to the island, the leaves on the trees all along the beach had turned yellow almost overnight. Even though the weather has been cool, the temps near 80 degrees predicted for several days this week, seem out of place. The impatiens plants, in pans on the porch, will never recover from the temps in the 40s last week. The hardiest of all our plants are the geraniums, which will probably last until Thanksgiving. They are beautiful.

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Last Friday, with nothing on the calendar, Hubby and I decided to head to Wrentham, to the outlet stores, and to the Trappist Abbey. We thought that the stores would be less crowded early in the day so we went to the mall first. In my pocketbook I had a 40 percent-off coupon for a Vera Bradley handbag. That was another incentive to go. It was the most beautiful day, cool, with a bright blue sky, as we drove out Routes 95 and 495. I did find a handbag that had flat shoulder straps. (The round straps hurt the rotator cuff problem in my right shoulder.) I even bought a gift card for a thirteen-year-old grand niece who loves Vera Bradley.

We then drove down near the entrance of the mall so we could have lunch at Cracker Barrel. If you have not eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, take yourself out to Wrentham. It is an experience. Lunch was just beginning although I understand Cracker Barrel serves breakfast all day. Hubby thoroughly enjoyed his roast beef while I had a meatloaf dinner, both at excellent prices. I splurged on a bottle of sugar-free root beer, served in an icy mug. The meals are served with a small corn muffin and a cream of tartar biscuit for each of us.

Then, with full tummies, we ventured into the restaurant’s gift shop, which has to be one of the best gift shops I have ever seen. It had lots of Halloween items that are different and fun. There was a witch’s broom moving all over the floor with the witch’s voice cackling from the straw end of the broom. There were also items with Thanksgiving decorations. If I were much younger, I would buy some of the things for the upcoming holidays. I can only imagine what gift items the shop will offer nearer Christmas.

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When we left the mall, we went out Route 121 and found ourselves turning onto Arnold Street where we saw the signs for the Big Apple Barn and Saint Mary’s Cistercian Abbey (The Trappist Abbey), our favorite destinations when our kids were little. We drove up the winding road to the abbey and parked where we used to see the huge, scary bull on the other side of the fence. The kids’ eyes opened wide when they saw him. We saw the statue of the Blessed Mother outside the main building. We have so many photographs of the kids sitting on the tiny wall in front of the statue. You can see them grow each year in the photos.

We first went into the chapel, which hasn’t changed in probably 40 years, except we are now able to see the nuns on the far side of the altar because the grating and veil have been long since been removed. There were no nuns in the chapel at the time we went there. We said a few prayers and left. Then we walked to the new building on the property. We had not seen this building before. Daughter Sue often went to the abbey with her Cousin Terri. It has a lovely gift shop, just as Sue had described it to us. As I walked in the door, I saw quite a display of Willow Tree figurines, which blew me away. (Willow Tree sometimes has just the right figurine to give as a gift.) There were books, rosaries, and all kinds of prayer cards. We bought a St. Christopher prayer card for the administrator of our church, our friend Father George. There were CDs, with hymns sung by the nuns. One was playing while we were there. The nuns’ voices reminded me of the “Celtic Woman” voices. We paid for our things and went out to our car while priding ourselves on not buying even one box of the Trappist Butternut Munch Candy, which we always bought at this time of year for Christmas gifts. (It is too tempting!) We delayed a little in the car, enjoying the peace and quiet of the abbey grounds, especially on that gorgeous Friday. We promised ourselves that we would get to the abbey again sometime before Christmas.

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As we drove down Arnold Street, our car almost automatically stopped in front to the Big Apple Barn. We have been buying a good-sized bag of mac apples here for years after each visit to the abbey. We noticed that there was no longer a barrel of fallen apples at the door. Inside the barn, we saw all kinds of fruit and almost every type of apple grown in the Northeast. I looked all around the barn and could see no mac apples. I went to the woman at the register and asked. She checked and told me that the macs were not ready and wouldn’t be put out until late afternoon. We were so disappointed. For years, either Sue and Terri or Terri alone would buy the mac apples for us. Terri lived in Attleboro and would often visit the abbey and the barn. She recently moved to Colorado to be with her son and his family. Roche Bros. had apples on sale the following Sunday but they still were not so delicious as those fresh-picked at the Big Apple Barn.

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This past Friday, we met daughter Sue, after school for a late lunch at Sully’s at Castle Island. Hubby and Sue got out of the car to get the food. I was listening to the radio but thought I heard music. When they returned to the car, they told me that there was a decorated piano near Sully’s door that anyone could play. There was a youngster playing while they were inside Sully’s. On Sunday, Hubby went back to Castle Island for his walk. The piano was still there and there were quite a few people listening to the various players. I read that 75 pianos were offered by Celebrity Series in honor of the group’s 75th season. The decorated pianos have been placed all over Boston. You may come across one in your travels.

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As I mentioned last week, our tour director, Marty Allen, wisely brought some games to Indian Head in case there was bad weather. On Friday, the day before we were to come home, it poured rain. Marty was ready. We gathered in the Greenery Room and gave our brains a good workout. We first had the “Turkey and Dog Test” and the “Women” Quiz.” The final test was quite difficult. We had to match a movie star with a photo of the star at a very young age. Several were easy: Barbra Streisand. Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Patrick Swayze, and Ellen Degeneres, who all looked almost exactly as they do now. (Ellen was so cute.) We figured the oldest photo had to be Elvis. It was. Angelina Jolie’s lips, even as a child, were quite full, so we figured her out. We couldn’t figure out Leonardo DiCaprio, Cher, or even George Clooney as youngsters. Michael Douglas looked almost like a future president, so we didn’t even get him. We did not do well on this game. When the scores were added up, we came in third of the three tables. I must say, however, that our team was “gracious in defeat,” to quote an old saying.

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When we entered church last Saturday, Sister Elizabeth, with a sad face, came over to speak with us. “Today’s Mass is being said for one of my former students and her mother, who were killed in a terrible auto accident last weekend.” When I went home, I checked on the deaths of Susan Macchi, 64 years, and her daughter Juliet, 23 years. The women were coming home from a Red Sox game and were struck by another car near Plymouth. Susan died at the scene; Juliet was pronounced dead when she arrived at Jordan Hospital. Both were getting ready to move to California in a few weeks. Sr. Elizabeth told us that Juliet had been a student in her Notre Dame Montessori School for three years when she was a little girl. We were all saddened to hear about their deaths.

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Since the feast day of St. Francis is observed on Oct. 4, here is a thought, attributed to him: “Start doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”