Autumn has always been my favorite season—but then I grew up in New England where people make quasi-religious pilgrimages during “fall foliage” season. While summer was fun, I was always happy to feel the heat and humidity give way to cooler, crisper air. Back-to-school meant new school supplies and clothes. A year filled with possibility. And as the leaves changed, out came the pumpkins and gourds, dried corn husks, bales of hay, Indian corn and apples falling from trees.
All my fall memories are idyllic. Like most, we carved pumpkins every year. Even Mom and Dad. Then we’d light them, turn off the lights and Dad would get out the gigantic fifteen pound camcorder and narrate who did what with their pumpkin. I’ll never forget the year that Dad accidentally picked out a gourd (which doesn’t really have the same hollow center as a pumpkin) and spent the entire evening meticulously scraping out the inside. Despite red raw hands, he made an incredible rendition of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (the long curvy shape of the gourd lent itself to the design). Sharon and I squealed with delight at the likeness.
Sharon and I usually started planning our Halloween costumes in July on lengthy road trips during summer vacation. Mom and Dad were happy to oblige because . . . what else was there to talk about for twelve hours? Their enthusiasm never wavered. Looking back I think, “God Bless Mom and Dad for putting up with us,” but at the time I really thought they were as excited about Halloween as we were. They were good actors. And of course there was the year that Dad spent at least a week making my Box of Popcorn costume.
Then there was the year Mom and Dad made a haunted house. We had an old barn on our property that looked haunted enough to start with, but they recruited friends to make it a Halloween fun-house for little kids (things like peeled grapes for eyeballs in a bowl and white sheets fluttering as ghosts). Despite Mom and Dad’s best efforts to convince her otherwise, Sharon thought it was too scary and never went through it.
Autumn was also about long walks on the Delaware Canal, hot apple cider and the task of raking leaves (well, that’s my only non-idyllic memory of fall). And as I recalled this weekend while I was back in Bucks County, even the simple act of driving is a joy as you wend through a landscape alight.
Halloween fades into Thanksgiving and those hand turkeys you make out of construction paper at school. The trees are bare, the ground is covered with dead leaves, and the first hint of winter is in the air. I don’t let go of autumn as easily I do of summer, but I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. My first one at home in seven years.