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"Time is like an enterprising manager always bent on staging some new and surprising production, without knowing very well what it will be." - George Santayana

We stood out by the garage for a few minutes before leaving, Veloy and Sally and myself, watching pink sunlight skitter above the mountains. It was surprisingly warm, tempting us to want to just stand there longer, a few more minutes together, as if the moment could be captured under a bell jar and preserved forever but knowing it couldn't.The cottonwoods between here and Gary and Judy's house were rich and dark silhouettes against the pink clouds, scrolled manuscripts of branches, curled horseshoe bends of spilled bister-colored ink that furrowed upward into the morning sky.

"It's a pretty morning," Veloy said. "It'll be a nice drive into town."

Yes, I thought, and a relaxing one. "Early Sunday morning," I said, "there shouldn't be much traffic on the freeway."

And there wasn't.

It is a lonely feeling to drive on a near-deserted highway on which you are used to confronting a lot of traffic. It prompts a sense of reservation, as if, maybe, since no one else is here, maybe you shouldn't be here either.

As we scooted around the Point of the Mountain, the skies over Salt Lake Valley vibrated like the spilled notes of a symphony by Mozart. For some reason, I thought of something Garrison Keillor had said on Prairie Home Companion last week, something about Christmas trees.

Christmas trees, he said, are very personal things. You can like everyone else's OK, but they just aren't as special as your own. Your own Christmas tree is the only right one, the only one with just the right colored ornaments, placed in just the right way with just the right spacing between, and with just the right amount of tinsel. Yes, nobody's Christmas tree is as special as your own.

Sunrises, I thought, as we dropped down into the valley toward Draper and Midvale, are a bit like that, too. This morning's pinkclouds seemed orchestrated just for us, the just-right conclusion to the holidays and especially our last little time with Sally.

Last night Mark had come up for a bit to say goodbye to Sally, and Rachel was here, too, and Andrew - none of the in-laws - and it seemed for an hour or so as if time had flipped backward 20 years and that the kids roaming around the kitchen and snooping in the fridge really lived here.

But it was strange because they were all so big. Even Andrew. They didn't quite fit the part. The house was like a too-tight T-shirt they had all outgrown.

At any rate, here we were the next morning in the middle of this gray overcast, melancholy morning with its pink edges thrown against the bottom of those clouds; they seemed perfect for the part - like Christmas tree ornaments placed on just the right branches.

We dropped Sally off at the Delta terminal. In contrast to the freeways, the airport was jammed with cars, with long lines outside waiting for skycaps to tag their bags and send them off on centipede carts toward the bellies of waiting airliners.

It was a fragile few moments, a last hug, feeling her delicate frame through the windbreaker, and then that last look as her face dissolved into a sea of bodies and other faces.

Back out on the freeway, I noticed immediately that the pink sunrise had given way, leaving gray clouds and cold mountains with that gray-white morning cast on the snow and mottled smat-terings of oakbrush melting upward into the dark green-black and jagged edges of pine in high canyons where skiers must already be trying to warm the slopes.

That's when I realized how special that little corner of reflected pink morning sun had been, how per-sonally patterned like the backdrop for a play, especially designed for this one performance, and now the curtain had dropped, that we were driving home to the beginning of the rest of whatever today would become for us and that Sally, too, by now getting settled into her seat on the plane, was doing the same.