Here’s the Thing

Here’s the thing about the weather right now: I can’t keep up. We spend the months between July and October locked in to a pattern of hot, hot, hot, sun, sun, sun, hot, hot, hot. We become accustomed to a simple, if occasionally tedious, reality. Then the winds start to shuffle stuff around, and we can hardly figure out what to wear when we head out the door.

We’ve had ninety degrees this week, we’ve had thirty degrees this week. I’ve gone to work in sandals, I’ve gone in my warmest socks and boots. Open windows have let warm breezes run through the house, this morning my car is coated with ice. Can you blame me for feeling a bit discombobulated? I am too old for this kind of thing.

It’s Friday already, it’s late November already. The streets are filling with confetti-colored leaves, making it look as though color is draining out of the world from the treetops down. Damp black pavement is carpeted in yellow, orange, and wine-red. It’s true we don’t have the New England foliage I grew up with, but we have our own version; and it tends to be a gradual progression, with lots of green giving way to vivid hues and burnished, bronzed expanses. At the moment, we’re still taking on color.

Out the back door this morning. Cold. Wet. Wind.

When the north wind sends crisp oak leaves scuttling loudly down the street, you know the season has changed for real. The markets are overflowing with excellent apples from both coasts, baking pumpkins, winter squash. Television has been an odd admixture of Thanksgiving menus and the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. I’m not sure how to feel.

I’ve been thinking about what makes autumn so unbearable – aside from the wretched holidays and their obligatory disappointments – and one thing I keep coming back to is that soon the world will be monochromatic. Bare trees, dead lawns, gardens full of empty stalks. That weird milky sun that gives you a headache as you drive along. Down here in central Texas we won’t even have the splendid respite of snowstorms to compensate, with that wonderful hush you experience walking out to a white world. No color, no snow days, nothing but cold feet and hands, and the desperate urge to stay home by the fire all day.

Just yesterday morning, letting Travis out, I stepped out onto the patio as the coffeemaker was grinding up the beans. When I closed the door behind me, the whirr of the grinder was replaced seamlessly by the whirr of crickets, and I thought about how the insects’ sounds will be gone soon too. Tomorrow morning the world will be silent.

Maybe I’m jumping too far ahead. We still have plenty of autumn going on. It’s just ironic that such loveliness summons such bleak anticipations.

Last night it was seventy degrees at bedtime; today it’s under forty degrees and rainy, with similar atmospheric misery expected all weekend. There’s nothing like cold rain to drive me to unpleasant indoor chores that have been put on hold since last March. I’d rather dust bookcases than go out in this.

One of the other unbearables about autumn is its manner of reminding us just how quickly time goes flying by. This is probably the oldest whine in the history of humanity, but it’s mine just the same. Last week I met someone’s brand-new baby, and waxed nostalgic – not for the days when my own two were little, but for the days of tiny grandchildren! Nobody warned me that might happen.

I may be a slightly unruly and irreverent grandmother, but the five grands can count on at least two things when they come to our house: we’ll all walk over to the closest playground at some point, and at some point there’ll be a Nerf gun battle in the house. I’ll find Nerf bullets in every nook, cranny, and houseplant for months. It’s always a big day for Travis.

Travis making sure the herd stays together
And that no one crosses until I say it’s OK

Here’s the thing: the kid in the red shirt is #1 Grandson, and he is now officially as tall as I am. It’s true that I am on the short side of normal and he’s on the tall side, but still. No more little babies in this picture. Just the other day I teased him – he can take a teasing with a dimple in his cheek – that he’d better tell his kids good things about me. He said he would.

It all goes by too fast, but like a kid at the very top of his swing, up where your feet fly past the treetops and into the clear blue sky, there’s no stopping it. We’re going.

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