Sometimes it’s simply the rustle of leaves swirling along with the rushing wind of a bicycle wheel; the scent of a sticky, humid plastic mask; the taste of a pumpkin-flavored anything. Sometimes it’s a memory of shaved grapes sitting inside an old shoebox with a hole cut out, just big enough for the fingers of a first grader to reach into and scream with fear and delight. More often than not, it’s a date – a birthday, an anniversary, a family holiday. These are the days by which we measure our age, reflect on our growth, and plan ahead for what is coming. All of this is the Fall. The Fall back into our youth, the Fall forward into our future, the Fall caused by a wet leaf stuck against a slippery stepping stone.
The Fall makes us who we are. It challenges us to survive as we drift away from the warm sunny days we’ve grown accustomed to and into something much colder, much more biting, much more abrasive. But it rewards us with beauty, changing colors, and promises of reunion. It forces us to come together with those we love; some with whom we’ve managed to keep in touch, and others we must remember we’ve forgotten. The Fall calls for large meals prepared over the course of a day, expectations we’re afraid we can’t live up to, and tiny insignificant details that wouldn’t matter on any other occasion. It begs us to take on new roles, grow into our mothers’ shoes, and make our own to-do lists that will never find completion.
But as fast as Summer turns to Fall and Fall fades into Winter, we realize that none of this really matters. Come December, we find the warmth we’ve been lacking. We run and run for weeks on end to settle into the solstice, when there is no time left to worry about preparations, and all the time in the world to sit, to talk, to cuddle up with a warm blanket or someone who you forgot to love on through all the rush and bustle. We love the loud vibrant colors of the Fall and all that they demand of us because we love the stress. We love having stories to tell. We love to feel accomplished. And we know what awaits us when it’s through…
True peace. Quiet. Hushed reassurances of “I love you”s and “I love you too”s. We learn to grow and we crave the opportunity to do it again and again. We know it will never stop. And we love that consistency, that ever-flowing promise. Fall brings goodness. Fall brings life.
Each year the Fall returns with its same shouting colors of wild abandon. Yellow, orange, fire-engine red. These colors fade out and fall to the ground; we rake them up and put them in paper bags. And then we move on. And we celebrate. The same ritual that we learned from our fathers, that we share with our partners, that we’ll pass on to our children.
We mark our growth by the pictures across the table, in front of the tree, wrapped up in our matching jammies surrounded by torn wrapping paper. We see the change in our eyes and our bodies, as some new faces are added, and others disappear. We mark those memories of who we are by the way we felt with that haircut, that cool pair of sneakers, that woven choker necklace that went in and out of style. We feel comforted in seeing the same poses, the same familial arrangements, year after year; just taller, or shorter, or blonder, or grayer.
This Fall marks the birth of a new baby goat, the construction of a giant automotive shop, the replacement of two knees for my mother, the changing of seasons in the personal lives of close friends, and the final holiday season spent with those who won’t be in Nashville next year. Through all of this we are becoming who we’re meant to be. We’re embracing the art of the selfie. We’re looking in the mirror and feeling okay. We’re reaching forward towards new goals and risks and people. The Fall, for each of us, looks just a little bit different. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a decisive effect. I hope your Fall is full of promise. I hope it’s pushing you towards something new. And I hope you’re embracing it, because it’s just the beginning.