I was driving on 684 today on my way to Westchester County. It was a beautiful September morning and the roads were quiet. A few miles into my journey, I got an unexpected surprisefirst color! Come on fellow New Englanders, you know what I’m talking aboutthat first sweet sighting of the leaves beginning to change. It wasn’t a lot, just little glimpses here and there teasing me with the promise of the seasonal bliss to come. There were little clusters of persimmon off to one side, small glimpses of scarlet hidden among the bounty of green, and little spots of gold winking from the trees set way up on the hills. Seeing that little sweep of color filled me with tremendous excitement. I look forward to the arrival of fall like a long-awaited visit from a dear friend who only comes for a brief stay once a year and then departs all too soon.
Perhaps today is a sign we can finally put away the flip flops and maxi dresses (actually, I wish those would go away forever) and trade up to boots and leather jackets. My mind and heart were racing at the thought of all the things I could do to herald the arrival of my old bestie, autumn. I would bake pumpkin bread and cinnamon cookies and dig into my armoire to find my espresso-colored nail polish.
I know I’m weird, and I’m probably in the minority when I say I can’t wait for summer to end. I’ve never been a fan of the hot weather for two reasons: my skin is very fair and I become a lobster in the sun, and I’m probably scarred from my childhood in the Bronx when we didn’t have air conditioning in our apartment. The more I drill it down though, I realize that no matter how I might try to fight it, I can’t. My disdain of summer is built into my DNA; I inherited it from my mother. When I was a kid, I remember my mother dreading the summer months. Having two bored children home for ten weeks meant it would be harder to juggle her job, running the household, etc. While summer wasn’t my mother’s cup of tea, I don’t know that she hated it as much as I do. She would get all excited planning day trips for us to the Bronx Zoo, Rye Beach and weekends with our family at the Jersey shore. However, when the insanely humid (and seemingly endless) summer days kicked in with a vengeance, that’s when my mother’s enthusiasm for the lazy, hazy, crazy days waned. That’s when she invented the system.
I have a wonderful aunt who pinch hits as surrogate mom to me and my family now that my mother has passed away. We were on the phone the other night talking about summer ending when she reminded me about that system. My mother believed that when a goal seemed too lofty, you broke it into small segments. So after all the trips and vacations were over and she was faced with the prospect of still having X number of weeks before school would start, she had to set little goals to know she was moving in the right direction. The first benchmark was the Fourth of July. Once she made it there, planned a few cookouts and the like, then she would have X number of weeks to go. The next marker came around the end of July/beginning of August when the stores began stocking school supplies. Once she had made it there, she was coasting! After the BTS shopping had commenced, my mother turned to nature for her signs that summer was winding down … earlier sunsets, nights that were a bit less sultry, and her personal favorite, the Queen Anne’s Lace that appeared in my great-grandmother’s garden in the late summer meant that she was in the home stretch.
My aunt and I laughed ourselves silly reminiscing about my mother’s summer system. It may sound hokey, but what working mother doesn’t pull out her own bags of tricks to navigate a tough period of time? I can certainly relate to that!
If you need me for the rest of the weekend, you won’t catch me in the yard looking for Queen Anne’s Lace. I’ll be on safari in the deepest caverns of my closet hunting for my beloved fall accessories. I won’t come out until I hear the timer on the oven go off alerting me that the pumpkin bread is done. Welcome fall, my old friend. I’ve missed you so.