I have never been a fan of the late autumnal months. Wet leaves cling like damp toilet paper to every shoe tracking a mucky trail through the house and mesh with the gas pedal in the car. The frigid air seems bracing and enticing as one first steps into it but within a matter of minutes it has penetrated your bones and made you wish you had opted for the puffy coat which is as fashionable as the Pillsbury Doughboy in Spandex. Summer plants have lost their luster and lay slimy and damp awaiting a mucky day of gardening in which you must don multiple layers of clothing and then spend several hours putting on and taking off fleece in accordance with hot flashes and chill winds. Yard waste cans are extra heavy and filled with moldering debris, fat slugs and the faint memories of brightly colored flowers which had perfumed the air around the yard through the summer. Fingers turn white in their gardening gloves while attempting to remove slippery stalks and mounds of leaves beneath bushes which have already started to turn into a fetid compost.
Meals start to take on a heavier and more comforting aura. One needs to cook soups, hearty pastas and foods in the oven to warm the house. I miss the casual days of sending my Usually Lovely Husband out to the patio to throw salmon on the barbecue. He would grill and relax in the evening sun while our elderly dog hovered around awaiting his “sous chef payment” for keeping potential marauders at bay. I would finish up side dishes and salads in the house and sip my wine and watch with amusement as my U.L.H. would slip morsels of our dinner to that old dog and we would all pretend he wasn’t begging but rather making sure our meal was cooked properly and that nary a neighbor cat was allowed a sniff. Sadly we have reached the time of year when my geriatric dog looks despondently at me while I peel sweet potatoes and squash at the kitchen sink and shuffles away in disgust with memories of teriyaki salmon in his eyes.
It is harder to clamber out of bed in these dark months. When the alarm peeps at 6:10 a.m. the dark is still swirling around the bedroom windows like a specter and the decision to swim up from under the warmth of the comforter becomes a battle of enormous effort. The bathroom light must be turned on to prevent crashing into fixtures and the harsh illumination is a sharp contrast to the pitch black of these early hours causing the look of a stunned owl on our faces for several seconds each morning. Coffee mugs are gripped with two hands to warm up cold fingers and the trip to the street to collect the morning paper is a hasty excursion in the dark frequently involving an umbrella rather than a jaunty journey enjoying the smell of dew and morning flower blossoms and the sound of singing birds .
As I collectively try to come to grips with sweaters and scarves which are not warm enough one minute and endlessly cumbersome when a middle age power surge strikes, I gaze sadly at my sleeveless tunics and shorts and shove them into bottom drawers and the back of the closet to keep them from taunting me with their casual demeanor. I send up a silent thank you for boots which save the fall and winter wardrobe from being completely unappealing while simultaneously unearthing my fingerless gloves to wear while I work in the office.
In the midst of all this seasonal change and turmoil, some unbeknownst genius decides we need to move our clocks back by one hour and not only throws us into an unwelcome dusk earlier in the day, but interrupts the circadian rhythm of our lives and causes a week of grumpy adjustment to sleep habits and hours. My poor beleaguered pets become confused and start the dinner dance midafternoon in the hope that we are fooled into feeding them at the time their internal body clocks demand. I find myself craving a midafternoon nap and feeling guilty for being tempted to close my eyelids for a long moment and wonder grumpily “when did I arrive at this middle aged lethargy?” Thankfully, my high school senior is just as weary and I can justify my lassitude on the change of clocks rather than the number of decades listed on my driver’s license.
This particular Fall my high school senior is completing his college applications and I can see the mixture of excitement and terror in his eyes mirrored in my own as we both contemplate where he will be a year from now. I fluctuate consistently between being elated and proud that he is starting a new chapter in his life and despondent that this young man who makes me laugh, lights up my day and exposes me to new thoughts and ideas on a regular basis will no longer be part of my daily world in less than a year. I try desperately not to get teary when he and his friends crowd around my kitchen table and carve pumpkins or gorge themselves on the vats of pasta that I cook them. I attempt to not to cling on to him longer than necessary when he hugs me or sigh when his car pulls out of the driveway. I know I will survive his departure just like I survived the exodus of his older brother. I know that I will not miss the funky boy smell emanating from his bedroom nor the trail of toast crumbs and glassware he leaves through the house. I look forward to new adventures with my Usually Lovely Husband without the worries of hurrying home to make sure no one has burnt the house down while making popcorn. And yet. I know this new stage will be particularly hard on me.
Perhaps it is a sign of El Nino or maybe it is due to global warming; yet this November it seems slightly darker and there is a little fissure in my heart that threatens to crack even while I enjoy the pumpkins, trick or treaters and the imminent holiday madness.