Archive for October, 2010

I have a love/hate relationship with fall.  It’s kind of like your birthday when you’re over that certain age.  You know you have to turn a year older and you know you don’t like it, but you still want to enjoy the day. 

Fall means the end of summer and I really like summer.  I like hot weather. I like long days. I like the freedom from routine that comes with summer.  Then all of a sudden, the days are shorter and cooler and routines are back. 

For years, I dreaded the first day of school as much as the kids.  Other parents celebrated when their kids went back to school, but I suspect they didn’t have to drive them.  The first day of school meant a return of backpacks and lunch boxes piled by the back door and homework being frantically completed in the back seat of the van.  It meant trying to get everyone into bed early so that we could all get up early and get on the road.  I liked summer better when I only had to get myself up and out early in the morning.

Now my life no longer revolves around kids schedules, but I still don’t like the end of summer.  Everyone’s schedule gets busier in the fall when the chores you postponed all summer suddenly have to get done.  And there’s that cold weather thing.

There used to be more perks to fall.  I grew up in New England, and while I’m a now a loyal Arkansan, I can’t quite get enthusiastic about the fall foliage here in the Ozarks.  I mean, it’s fine, but it’s not Vermont.  Anyone who has ever been in Vermont at the peak of foliage season knows what I mean.

Then there was apple picking.  We went one time after we moved to Arkansas, but we had to go in August and the apples just weren’t the same.  In New England and for a few years when we lived in Indiana, apple picking was the perfect family event.  Growing up, I never really understood why my mother let us hide apples in the back of the station wagon. My mother never broke a law in her life and we were stealing maybe  dozens of apples!  It was our one foray in criminal activity and we loved it.  Years later, I let my own kids eat as many apples as they possible could while we were picking our own and then we gleefully didn’t pay for them. It was still fun. 

And camping in the fall used to be great.  That was when you could build a big campfire and really enjoy it.  We always had fires when we camped in the summer months too, but I can’t enjoy a fire unless I’M wearing flannel shirts and looking forward to heavy duty sleeping bags.  We stopped camping about the same time we moved to the lake.  I’d probably still go, even if we camped a only few miles down the road in Prairie Creek, but my husband refuses to leave the comforts of home and the pontoon boat.

Even raking leaves was fun  back in the day.  We would pile up huge piles of Oak leaves and then jump into them.  After we had raked them, scattered them, and racked them again, we would push them all down to the edge of the street and burn them.  The smell of burning leaves was the incense of fall.  There was never a year that we didn’t tell the urban legend (at least I hope it was an urban legend) about the child hiding in the street side pile of leaves when his older brother decided to scatter them with his car. 

Of course, we don’t burn leaves anymore event though we live out in the county. I just can’t to add to the air pollution unnecessarily.  And strangely, my kids never jumped in leaves the way we used to.  The truth is, as an adult I look at pile of leaves and I think about the sticks that could poke out an eye, and the dog waste that must have been raked up too.  I can’t encourage them to jump into something like that.  So instead fall leaves have became just a difficult chore.  We have a big yard with a lot of old trees.  It’s not easy trying to get all those leaves into the empty lot we own and then get them back to the empty lot after the next big storm. 

But as much as there is to whine about fall, sometimes you get a day like today.  You get a day when the sun hits the foliage and it’s a lot like Vermont.  You get a day when the sky is bluer than it’s been all summer and a few white puffy clouds float through for contrast. The lake looks like glass and it’s empty and beckoning.  The air has just enough of a chill to make it feasible to wear your favorite red hoodie and instead of the flip flops you’re tired of, you can wear your sneakers again and feel like you can  run anywhere. 

Sometimes I love the fall, even if am going to miss the summer evenings on the lake.

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Here it is a truly beautiful fall day and I can’t quite shake off a creeping depression. Then the college kid jumps into my former station wagon and drives off, returning to college. I actually teared up. I miss having kids.
Later, I checked an acquaintance’s Facebook photo album which featured two pretty ordinary little boys and it was the same feeling. I had to swallow my impulse to comment on her wall. I wanted to warn her to enjoy the kids while she has them, because they just don’t stay. Yeah, you get them for close to twenty years, and that may seem like long enough, but all of a sudden the times up and the kids are gone and it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been twenty years. It feels like yesterday.
And what can you do about it?
You know you don’t want to make them stay home. You want them to be independent and successful. You want them to be happy and responsible. And you know that means they really have to leave. But knowing that doesn’t really help when they cheerfully throw a laundry basket into the back seat and leave you standing in the garage wondering how it went by so fast.
Several people warned me when they were little but I didn’t really believe them. There’s a time when you’re so overwhelmed with the day to day stuff – scheduling play days, catching up the laundry, trying to get three kids to three different schools at the same time – even while time was flying by, it didn’t seem to matter. But then one day it does matter.
And I don’t want to hear one more person tell me about adult children who “come back.” If they want to come live in their old bedrooms again, that would be fine with me. I would love to buy family size packages in the grocery store again. I’d love to nag them to pick up their dirty clothes (and then go pick them up myself even through I swore I would never do that for them). If they wanted to stay out late, that would be fine with me. If they dragged home a family of their own, all the better. I would be glad give up the guest room for them. We haven’t had a guest room very long anyway.
It really is a beautiful day and all of a sudden I feel guilty. It feels like last week when I threw my clean laundry into the back seat of the station wagon that had once been my mother’s and drove off; leaving her alone in the house that had once been full. And now I realize that I never apologized for going off like that and never going back.

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