bittersweet: adj. 2. producing or experiencing a mixture of pain and pleasure (after [the plant's] roots, which are said to taste bitter, then sweet when chewed)
(from The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Ed.)
I have kept it faith fully in this mason jar from my mother, bittersweet from my father from an autumn journey which lead us back to the love of bittersweet roots from my mother; we walked our golden retriever on the train tracks behind our small well seasoned house. "I am going to look for bittersweet." Was my mother always so beautiful? Bittersweet took the place of bouquets in our autumn cottage with brown eyed susans from the prairie garden behind the small brown house to keep company the bittersweet. We hunted for perfection in the pumpkin fields, my mother and I, ate cheese curds in September in the bustling farmer's market. My sister and I counted dogs, and my mother bought bittersweet. This bittersweet comes from my father who gave me football games and tailgating in autumn. Day games at the giant university stadium; night games at the tiny high school which I wore as a hand-me-down years later until it no longer fit. Driving with me to my new home, college, it was my father who insisted we stop at a farmer's market on the side of an Iowa road. Pulled me out of the van into my mother's memory and bought me bittersweet. Some we took to my cousin dying in Iowa City. I handed him the bittersweet I had been clutching for miles. Three weeks later as I studied for finals he died. Shadows reached through the arms of the parched stalks, dying golden in the fields, as my mother and I drove across years, dreams, miles of dusky sunsets, back to an earlier life, to say goodbye. My father's family at the funeral to my surprise and bittersweet joy remembered my mother. My family shed the summer together. My sister's hair in the dying sunlight was dyed red and we didn't look alike. Autumn again, roses, fire. I keep my bittersweet in my mother's mason jar on my windowsill.
21 September 1999