I have seen them lately: fall haters. They are lurking around social media posting memes about yoga pants and sweatshirts. They are on Pinterest, right now, turning their noses up at the white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte as we speak. “Ugh,” they say, “Can we wait until at least October before we start with the pumpkin?” My answer is, “No, fuck you; I want my damn pumpkin now.” And if I so choose I will drink my white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte while singing a Christmas song and decorating my house with festive gourds. I may drink my white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte while singing the national anthem; we just don’t know the craziness that will happen when I finally get my first pumpkin fix of the season. I am one of the pumpkin people. I truly love it, and my friend Rachel is the one who brought me on the pumpkin bandwagon. She brought me a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie to work one day and I never looked back.
Even before pumpkin-infused everything, fall has always been my favorite time of year. Fall means no more sweating. Fall means new school supplies and the delicious hunt to find the perfect Trapper Keeper. Fall is new clothes and blue jeans so dark that your fingernails, underpants, and thighs are indigo, almost the same color as a plump blueberry or the night sky. Fall is driving through neighborhoods with dads and kids raking leaves into ditches. Every one of these things brings me back to living in Farley in the fifth grade. In the fifth grade I wanted to own a blue jean jacket more than I wanted almost anything; it was the thing to have. I wanted to roll the sleeves up and cover the front with buttons of my favorite bands and funny sayings. These buttons would open doors for me. They would let the world know just how cool and original I was. People would see my decorated jacket and clear the way for me. Other girls would want to emulate my style. This denim jacket was going to change my life – that is if my parents ever decided to buy me one.
That denim jacket wasn’t a dream for long. One fall afternoon I rode home with a stomach full of worry. The teacher had given us our mid-term grades and it wasn’t good. I had a D in math, my lack of interest and ADD had won, multiplication was the big loser. My anxiety increased as the bus rumbled through the neighborhoods. Each bus stop brought me closer to my impending doom. The squeak of the breaks said, “Mom is going to be mad.” The release of the hydraulics as the door opened said, “They are going to be disappointed in you.” The bus kept moving and my fear grew. When the bus got to our house, I exited slowly trying to buy myself time and a plan. I was the James Bond of lying, the best, surely I could find a way around this D. Mom met me at the door with a denim jacket in hand. I broke down and cried; I loved the jacket but she needed to return it. I confessed my D and cried until my eyes were red and my nose was snotty. Mom, of course, acted disappointed and said she would tell Dad, but I could keep the jacket. That jacket had lost some of its mojo, and it didn’t make me one of the cool kids, but it and that day are a firm and unwavering autumn memory.
That is what fall is to me, redemption.
With each passing season I get to shake off the sins that I committed and start fresh. Starting at the beginning of September I look ahead to football games and cheering for our town’s high school team. Although I hate being around that many people, I get excited for the kids’ excitement. Every year I wait for that one night where the air smells like burning leaves. On that night, I inhale deeply and then hold the air in my lungs. I let go of summer in that moment. Until I smell the leaves, I will fill my Pinterest boards with soups, sweaters, and pumpkin latte pictures. I will obsess about that moment when I turn my heat on and the house is filled with the smell of dust burning off the coils. I will continue to think about coats, jackets, and sweaters. I will wait patiently for a cup of hot chocolate and a bowl of chili. That is autumn to me, a season filled with dark cool nights, and want.
Somewhere at the beginning of March I will start to want flip flops and skirts. I will have a day when the urge to put my hands in potting soil is so overwhelming that I almost can’t control myself. I will want long days, thunderstorms, and the sound of lawn mowers to consume me. I love how our wants and needs change with the season. Sometimes we have to wait for the planet to give us exactly what we need.
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